By Victoria Bourne
A little slice of Europe landed in Norfolk’s Neon District last year.
You can’t miss La Brioche on Granby Street. The bakery, which opened last March, features a bright pink façade and a sign that shows the Eiffel Tower, promising coffee and “French quality” baked goods.
Baker Yvan Devulder says he wanted to export a taste of France. Walk in and you can peruse a glass case of flaky, buttery, tenderly sweet delicacies made by Devulder and his pastry chef, Suzanne Dorris. They offer everything from humble croissants and breads to galette des rois, a traditional French pastry fit for a king.
Norfolk has the feel of a European old town, Devulder says, with its nar-row streets, a real downtown and linked communities. He and his wife, Jackie, arrived in Virginia by way of France, French Guiana and Montreal, Canada.
He wasn’t always a baker; that journey began in 2016, he says, and included classes, an internship and working under the tutelage of baker and pastry chef friends. Before that, he was a company manager for a distributor of heavy-duty equipment – forklifts, excavators and the like. Jackie was a sales and business manager.
It’s easy to feel momentarily transported as you settle in with a newspaper, coffee and chocolatine in the bakery’s loft-like second floor, eavesdropping on a Francophile’s conversation with Jackie below, your ear lingering on each French pronunciation. A touch of multiculturism on an otherwise ordinary day.
Devulder says well-traveled customers come to relive the tastes of a treasured trip. Others seek to rediscover the flavors of a beloved European grandmother’s baking. “And you know, now we have people coming here every morning to buy just a fresh, hot baguette.”
Laughing, he says he tells them: “Somewhere, you are French.”