Winchester bids ‘Bonjour’ to French bakery

Francois Martin, chef and co-owner of Bon Matin chez Leroy, presses eclairs on this tray inside the new French bakery on East Boscawen Street in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER — When Aida Adams grew up in France, she ate bread. Bread for breakfast, bread for lunch, bread for afternoon tea and bread for dinner. But when she married her husband nine years ago and moved to America, she discovered the U.S. had a bread shortage.

“I missed it terribly,” Adams said. “I used to go to Wegmans and get the Marco Polo bread, but it wasn’t the same.”

Five years ago, she moved to Winchester, where one afternoon, she met a Frenchman named Jean-Francois Martin. They chatted, he gave her his business card and that was the end of it. But when Jennifer Bell, the Winchester downtown manager, asked Adams “Where’s my French bakery?” Adams found that business card and called Martin.

“For the first time in four years, I called up Jean-Francois and asked what he was up to,” Adams said. “We met at the George Washington Hotel here, made up a business plan and decided we’d open up next year.”

Then earlier this fall, Bell informed the business partners there was a space open at 21 Boscawen St. According to Adams, the duo pulled together and opened Bon Matin chez Leroy on Nov. 13.

Shanna Avila, a pastry chef at Bon Matin chez Leroy, assembles a tray of fruit tarts. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We just heated up everything, presenting business plans to the county,” Adams said. “Don’t ask me how we did it, but there was a lot of 4 a.m. waking up. It worked out. We found fabulous people and Jean-Francois is very a talented chef.”

Martin, chef and co-owner of the bakery, has been cooking for most of his life.

Growing up in Saintes, France, his grandparents owned a restaurant situated halfway between his home and his school, where Martin waited his first tables at 7 years old and began learning how to cook.

After apprenticing as a baker and working as a sous chef at several restaurants in Bordeaux, France, he spent two years in Tokyo as a pastry chef.

Martin settled in Berryville in 1993 and opened Bon Matin, a bakery and café he owned for 15 years before selling it in 2008.

Shanna Avila, a pastry chef at Bon Matin chez Leroy, spreads a glaze to finish a tray of fruit tarts. Rich Cooley/Daily

He said the new Winchester space, located in the former spot of Sucilee’s House of Thai, has a better kitchen to cook with and is easier to find help. One of the reasons he decided to sell the Berryville business, he said, was the difficulty in finding new employees.

Besides its name, Bon Matin chez Leroy — which translates to “Good morning to the king” — has also brought back Martin’s famous tomato soup.

“A lot of people are expecting that,” he said. “For 15 years, I had a soup every single day, and I sold a crock pot or two of it every single day.”

The bakery offers an assortment of French pastries, such as éclairs and croissants, soups, quiche, $1 coffee and free Wi-Fi. The bakery is modeled after Parisian style cafes, with French postcards adorning the walls, prints of Monets and Van Goghs and tables for patrons to sit and chat over a pastry and a latte. Adams said she wants to bring people an authentic French experience.

“Nowadays, we are in the experience economy, where people are focused on what they experience, not the actual material commodity,” Adams said. “What I want to do is focus on the food, the taste, the experience of being here.”

Francois Martin holds a tray of chocolate croissants. Rich Cooley/Daily

Adams said she hopes the restaurant can add a dash of French culture to the Winchester area.

“What I love is how people can bring their experiences to the table, then experience something new, something unfamiliar,” she said. “A lot of people here have never been to France, but when they come here, they see it’s not so different and they discover what they have in common with my culture.”

In addition to offering a Parisian feel for patrons, Adams said she hopes to develop a “community café with a foreign touch.”

“We want to offer customers a distinctive experience, where we’ll have French classes, French music, art evenings, movies,” Adams said. “I’d like to bring a little bit of everything from France for people. Maybe give discounts for whoever can order their food in French.”

Bon Matin chez Leroy also offers catering and baking for commercial enterprises. Currently, the bakery is negotiating with some local wine shops and the George Washington Hotel to bake bread for them.

Where: 21 E. Boscawen St., Winchester
When: Open from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. every day
Call: 855-250-3901
Online: http://www.bonmatinleroy.com

<em>Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or <a href=“mailto:hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com”>hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com</a></em>

<em>Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or <a href=“mailto:rcornell@nvdaily.com”>rcornell@nvdaily.com</a></em>