Food & Entertaining | August 2013

Stemming from a private unassuming patio, a sweet, distinctive scent fills the air. The aroma, with its alluring propensity, captivates anyone in its path, drawing unassuming passersby into a small bakery known as La Belle. The bakery — filled with fresh breads, pastries and other delicacies — is bringing the subtly and richness of fine French cuisine to the MidSouth.La Belle means “the beautiful,” a moniker that owner and pastry chef Holly Loomis thinks suitable for her take on French cuisine in a Southern location. Begun under the name Boulangerie Olivier, the shop is the product of Loomis’ extensive study of French culture and pastries. “While working as a cake decorator in high school, I realized that becoming a baker was what I wanted to do.” And while she is a first generation baker, Loomis found guidance at the French Pastry School in Chicago, Illinois. As part of her study, she enrolled in L’Art de la Boulangerie, a course that would enrich her baking and cultivate her ability to recreate authentic French pastries. “I had the opportunity to study under the leaders in the industry, including MOFs (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France), world champion bakers and master bakers. After graduating with honors from FPS [French Pastry School], I returned to the Memphis area to share my love of French breads and pastries with this part of the country.”Although French cuisine is not a highly practiced art in the MidSouth, Loomis has found a niche for her products in Hernando. Whether it is French gastronomy connoisseurs or locals with a sweet tooth, the bakery invites patrons to indulge in the delicacies of France and escape reality, even if for a moment. “Customers coming into La Belle can expect the ultimate European experience in the heart of the South. Customers can find the ultimate in quality and authenticity of European breads and pastries at our shop,” Loomis says.And while the pastries may seem like a simple, delicious treat, customers may not realize the study and practice behind the small desserts. “I have had the opportunity to travel to France and visit a lot of bakeries and patisseries to gain new ideas and inspiration and compare my products. I was very pleased to find that the quality of my pastries was equal and, in some cases, superior to what I sampled over there.”The bakery offers an education in French baking, as well as local Southern heritage and way of cooking. “One reason that I really enjoy French cuisine is because of the light subtle flavors. Unlike American cuisine that is overloaded with sugar to the point of tasting nothing else, with French food, you can appreciate and savor all of the different textures and flavors in every bite.”Going so far as to relate the food to a work of art, Loomis says she particularly enjoys making croissants and breakfast pastries. The individuality of each croissant may make choosing just one a difficult task but also allows for each customer to satisfy his or her respective palate. But once finished enjoying the French creations, guests are not likely to want to leave quickly. Open only on weekends, La Belle is an escape from Southern traditions, sights and sounds. “The typical Saturday morning in the shop is a lively atmosphere of people stopping by to visit with friends over coffee and pastries on the patio, or to buy freshly baked bread to take home for a family gathering or party,” says Loomis. Playing traditional French music in the background, the bakery fully immerses its regulars and newcomers during their visit. “It can easily become crowded, but the patio is a great place to escape the crowds and just enjoy the beautiful summer days of the delta. I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of international travelers visiting the Memphis area who are missing their pastries from back in Europe and come to satisfy that craving!”Visiting boulangeries and patisseries in Paris, United Kingdom and Chicago has influenced La Belle’s menu, says Loomis. Some items remain constant while others transition based on which fruits are in season. Regardless of when a customer visits, they are sure to find the breakfast pastries to be the best in this part of the country, she says. While most of her time is spent in some way perfecting recipes and creating new ones, Loomis enjoys exploring the restaurant scene in Memphis, riding horses, traveling and scuba diving. Although she is the only baker, Loomis says her entire family has gotten involved with the bakery in some way. To satisfy more savory tastes, the bakery will soon feature a line of artisan cheeses made by her brother.La Belle’s delectable pastries are available at the main location on the Square in Hernando, but Memphians can also find her products at a more convenient location in the Memphis Botanic Garden Market, Cooper-Young Community Market and Germantown Farm Park Market.

 

 

La Belle Bakery

A certain je ne sais quoi

 

Story by Lindsee Gentry  |  Photos by Casey Hilder

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