Passersby can smell fresh-baked bread before entering Maple Street Patisserie (3138 Magazine St., 504-309-9283; 7638 Maple St., 504-304-1526; www.maplestreetpatisserie.com) and once they're inside, cases of almond croissants, petit fours and cinnamon rolls provide a visual feast. This month, partners Ziggy Cichowski and Patricia-Ann Donohue celebrate six years of sharing the baking traditions of small towns in Cichowski's native Poland, as well as Austria, Italy, Germany and France.
Master Pastry Chef Cichowski is responsible for the breads' and pastries' consistent texture and flavor. To earn his title, Cichowski followed a three-year European education model, which involves working and studying for 12-hour days, six days a week.
"After that, you have to work for another year, and then apprentice for another three years to become a pastry chef," says Cichowski, who learned everything from the chemical and molecular makeup of ingredients to the mechanics of fixing equipment. "Before that, you were only just a baker or a cake decorator."
The staff also includes Executive Pastry Chef Thomas McGovern, who joined the team after working at the Ritz-Carlton. Bakery staples range from smoked ham and three-cheese croissants to guava and cheese turnovers, doughnuts and traditional Danishes. A favorite of Donohue's is the croissant filled with almond paste, topped with slivered almonds and drizzled with more almond paste.
"We are constantly putting out fresh product," Donohue says. "Ziggy has a great flow. You don't have to worry that you waited in line for 10 minutes and now we are sold out."
Bread and pastries are prepared without preservatives and have minimal refined sugar and salt. The majority of the sweetness comes from honey. Fresh, packaged breads and sweets and signature olive oil are for sale. Traditional New York bagels are hand-formed and boiled before being finished in the deck oven.
"Bagels are really time-consuming," Donohue says. "The process takes about 24 hours."
There are two retail locations: the bakery on Maple Street and a more sandwich-focused location on Magazine Street. The bakery also runs a 42-oven wholesale commissary. There, staff members handcraft breads and pastries and deliver them to more than 60 hotels, restaurants and coffee shops six days per week. Cichowski wakes at 1 a.m. to start baking and is on a first-name basis with many regular customers at the Maple Street location.
"In addition to upholding tradition, he is consistent," Donohue says. "Say you make something great. Then try to make 5,000 every single day that need to look and taste exactly the same. That is Ziggy's real talent. There is no one like him."