Post by Frank Cierpial
In 2009 when I came to study abroad in Paris for the first time, I was ecstatic to see what treasures this city would hold for me to discover. On a show that I used to watch called “Bump” on LOGO (The LGBT channel in the United States), I discovered two things. I discovered “Legay Choc” and my love for Charlie David who is one of the hosts.
When I finally got to Paris, after the safety orientation meeting at my study abroad program, I ran right to Le Marais and ironically, I got lost. While trying to find my way back and getting very frustrated with myself thinking “I’m not even in Paris for an entire day and I’m already lost?” My last hope was to walk up a little street that would take me to the Pompidou Center. Little did I know, that little street was rue Sainte Croix La Bretonnerie, as I walked up and hit number 45, I saw it. The Patisserie that I saw on all of those shows, the Gay Patisserie of Paris. One of the craziest feelings in the world is when you see something on TV, want so badly to be there, and then when you are there in reality, it’s the kind of childish dream that evaporates when you discover the real world, and you feel as if you are walking in a magical scene.
Paris is full of that, and boy did I feel it then!
I ran in so pressed to speak French and order something and everybody was so nice. They heard my accent and asked me where I was from, they started conversations with me, I was in there for a good 15 minutes and I left with a pastry, what can be better?! I’ll tell you what can be better. For the last four years, “Legay Choc” has served as my breakfast, lunch, sometimes dinner, and desert while in Paris. You may digest the pastry, but the magic of “Legay Choc” is everlasting. Now, that I am a blogger for Prete-Moi Paris, I decided to share my favorite Patisserie in Paris with all of you. This past summer, I stumbled upon an opportunity to meet the man behind the pastries and talk to him about his creation.
His name is Richard Legay, Yes, That is his real name. And, he is wonderful! He is everything I dreamed he would be and more.
So, now for the fun part, let me tell you what he said. So, the first question I asked was to get some background on M. Legay. He told me that he comes from a family of “Patissiers” people who own, create, run, and work in pastry shops. His Great-grandfather had opened his bakery in 1920 and his grandparents took on the same “metier”. Then his parents who are also both “pâtissiers”, met, fell in love and started a family.
As a child Richard Legay spent a lot of time at his Grandfather’s pâtisserie, and at the age of nine moved to Nantes, which is a city in the West of France just under the Brittany « arm », and is the seventh largest city in France. Being born into a family of pâtissiers, he was fully entrenched into that world and always had flour all over him, and like most people who are born into families like this, they try to find something else to do.
At first, Mr. Legay was not interested in being a pâtissier, he decided to work in a bank. So, he studiedfinance and eventually got a job in that sector. After a while, his brother proposed an idea, he said “Let’s open a “chocolatrie!”, and like any other responsible adult Mr. Legay said that he had to feel out his life situation, leaving a stable job in a bank to open a chocolatrie can sometimes be a jump. But, his brother had a very unique proposition; he wanted to create penis shaped chocolates, an idea that Richard thought was fantastic. But, he knew this was a particular commerce that would have to be set in Paris, in le Marais. With Nante’s catholic culture, it wouldn’t have blown over very well there (excuse the pun!).
With a little more brainstorming, they came up with the idea that would eventually make it a pâtisserie, thus following in the footsteps of his parnets. He told his brother “Our name is Legay, you are straight, but I am gay,” how perfect! So, Richard Legay went searching for his bakery, and he found the one at 45 Rue Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie. That was 12 years ago.
So now that we know the history of how Legay Choc came to be, I had to ask him about their products. Many of their products are funny unique. The one that I was most curious about was their Bichon. So, before the interview, I searched on the internet for hours trying to find the history of this heavenly pastry. Et je n’ai rien trouvé, I could not find it anywhere! So, of course I asked Mr. Legay about this and he told me that the reason why I couldn’t find it is because it is a secret family recipe that is unique to the Legay family. In fact, most of the things that you will find in Legay Choc are recipes that have been passed on from his family, so they are all very unique and pastries you will not necessarily find anywhere else. Of course, they do make traditional French pastries like le Pain au Chocolat and Pain au Raisin, and of course the baguette tradition.
Mr. Legay actually gave me some insight into baguettes; he told me that in Paris you will generally find two kinds of baguettes. You will find the Baguette Parisien, which is whiter than the Baguette Tradition, which is more yellow inside and filled with more air. He also told me that the Baguette Tradition is made in a very special way, which can take up to two hours to make. So, if you are ever in Paris and you want that specific type of Baguette, you should ask for the Baguette Tradition. Another thing that they make which is really good is all of their sandwiches. They have a wide variety of sandwiches, and as a student who is on a student budget, I can honestly tell you that they are the best quality sandwiches for the most affordable prices.
My final question that I asked Mr. Legay was what he would want the world to know about Legay Choc, and he gave me the exact response I was hoping to hear. Firstly, he would like you all to know that everything in Legay Choc is made by hand. And, secondly that Legay Choc is the first Gay Bakery in Paris. and thirdly, Richard Legay and his family are all pâtissiers.
He has an incredible amount of experience in this field being around it his entire life, and he knows “quality products”. He said that any pâtisserie that does not sell quality products will not do well and he is always striving to make his the best quality possible. And, I would like to add a little piece here, because we have all been to those “theme resteraunts” like Mars 2112 in New York, and the atmosphere is awesome, but the quality of the food is in the toilet, which is absolutely not true for Legay Choc. When you go to Legay Choc, you are not only going to the “Gay Bakery” in Paris, but you are buying quality pastries, which is, beyond the hilarity of the theme, the most important thing.
Another thing that is very important to Mr. Legay is that his sales people have fun while they work and create a friendly environment especially for the clients. Me, being a client for years I can attest to this. In May, when I first came here, I met his employee Alan. Alan is Italian and he speaks incredible French, he is also one of the people who made my trip so fantastic. I have met him in the street in the Marais and every single time he sees me he gives me the bises or gives me a wave. I was once on the terrace of a café and he went out of his way to give me a wave and say hello. He is one of the most cheery and nicest people that you could ever meet. He has another employee Sergio who does the same thing. He is so nice, he always says bonjour, and he always has a smile on his face. And ladies and gay gentlemen, both of these guys are adorable inside and out.
And last but not at all least, Mr. Legay does own a Gay Bakery and does make pastries and baguettes in the shape of a penis, but he does not in any way do this to provoke the people around him. Actually, he does everything he can to not provoke the people. Let me give you all a little anecdote that he gave me. For all the conservatives who are constantly going on about children and how things like this harm them and make them into serial killers, if you watch “Legay Choc” very closely, you will see that during the weekends, he displays his penis products and pictures in the window, but come Monday they are gone. One must ask “Pourquoi”, I’ll tell you pourquoi : He does this because he knows very well that there is a school right near the bakery and children go down that street regularly and he does not want to upset anybody so he takes them down and only displays them inside during the week. I love that he is concientious and fights against the gay stereotype that has been forced upon us by some of our lovely members and the right wing. He ended this anecdote by saying that Legay Choc is a bakery for the district and not just the gay community. And if you are a regular client like me, you will see kids going in there by themselves to get a baguette tradition for dinner that night or sometimes they are with their parents. They are a bakery for the entire district not just for the gay people and tourists who want to go to the “Gay” bakery.
Now, I get to talk about what this place means to me. I have been a Francophile and an out gay man for six years now, and in those six years I have learned a lot. Just because I am gay does not mean that I agree with all gay rights organizations and the things that they do. There are things that I hear that really embarrass me and make me actually want to apologize to people. Just because we are gay and people who are opposed to our rights are telling us that we are overthrowing society and this and that does not mean that we have to prove them right. I feel a more effective method is to prove them wrong. I don’t want to prove to people that we are different; I want to prove to people that we are really the same. That is what “LeGay Choc” represents to me. In my opinion Richard Legay is one of our gay heroes not for trying to be different, but for trying to fit in to French society and make a kind and welcoming pace for the entire district, along with quality products and family recipes that have been passed on from prior generations, in addition to the funny gimmick of « zizi » shaped pastries. I swear that no matter what arrondissement that I live in, one day when I am married and living in Paris maybe with children, I will always go to 45 Rue Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie to get whatever I need, whether it be a baguette tradition or some tasty treats for a get together. Legay Choc will always be a part of my life.
For more information on Legay Choc or to see Legay choc in action, I have included a video from my two good friends Lucie and Arnaud who are hosts of their show Sortez Ouverts. They are two of the best people that I know, we all get along marvelously and they made an incredible video for their show. They are two true journalists in a world where true journalism is hard to find and they took us inside, outside, and behind the scenes of “Legay Choc”. Why don’t you jetter un coup d’oeil at their video, and perhaps when in the City of Lights, check out Mr Legay’s pâtisserie.