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Boulangerie Utopie: Of Leaven and Men

Text by Gilbert Pytel, photos: Zoé Armbruster and Blaise Gargadennec

Our Favorite Artisans - Bakers

Praised by their clients, we put them in the spotlight

Both from the Paris region, they met at school and quickly hit it off.
They then pass their B.E.P. pâtissier and Bac pro alimentation with success. Separately, they both travel all over the world for several years, racking up countries and experiences (England, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Canada...).

Portrait Z&B_UTOPIE3317

In 2012, Erwan and Sébastien found themselves without work in the capital and decided to join forces to open their own establishment: "even though we were trained in pastry, we did not want to create something that was exclusively a patisserie. So we decided to learn how to make bread. After a little training in the use of sourdough with a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, we spent several months hunched over the kneading machine before finding bread recipes to suit us.”

In 2014, the two craftsmen chose to take on a tired local shop in the 11th arrondissement of the capital. When the time comes to choose a name, Utopia is an obvious choice: “we wanted to produce quality products while remaining affordable in terms of price. In our mind, everyone should be able to afford high quality bread, pastry or pâtisserie. In the neighbourhood where we were, we had a long way to go. Our first two years of operation have been pretty crazy. When we opened, we only had two apprentices and a sales assistant. As the shop quickly became a success, we had to work seven days a week. So we didn't really have time to spend with our friends and family or children." From the start, Erwan and Sébastien decided that everything will be made on site from start to finish: “Apart from the drinks, everything is made in our pastry kitchen. We have focused our thinking on sourcing quality raw materials. With us, there are no ready-made recipes, only raw ingredients that are utilised as well as possible." For flour, they are supplied by Moulins de Chars, but they also use butter and milk produced in France, seasonal fruits, etc.” The shop’s wall of bread contains a range of products produced using long fermentation and on a natural sourdough base, which brings a slight acidity to the finish.

Apart from drinks, everything is made in our pastry kitchen

While tradition is logically Utopie’s best-selling product, customers really enjoy the l’Authentic, a large sliced bread, and the many special breads such as green tea puffed rice, Auvergnat or muesli bread – laden with dried fruit and nuts. Erwan and Sébastien were also among the first to work on certain creations by incorporating vegetable charcoal, a product well known for its digestive properties: "we are far from a medicinal bread, it’s more the graphic side of the colour black that interested us". In the same way, alongside the extremely classic croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins and apple turnovers, Utopie's signature pastry is a sesame & food-grade charcoal Swiss roll. A range that is completed by brownies, cookies, shortbread and other madeleines. Thanks to their pastry training, the cakes found in the windows are also very well executed, while keeping prices low. Their best sellers remain the flan followed closely by the iconic sesame éclair, the apple tart, the cheesecake and the lemon tart. Though the shop is rarely empty during the day, lunchtime is particularly busy and you have to be armed with patience.


“We remain above all a local shop, so it makes sense that snacks form a key part of our range. Alongside the usual sandwiches, quiches, pizzas and other salads, you’ll see more original creations such as a hot cheese sandwich on a focaccia base.” Each weekend, you’ll find a pop-up creation, a bread or pastry in limited quantities: "These temporary offers allow our customers to taste new flavours and our employees to express themselves in a different way. Little by little, it's a concept that has expanded and is attracting a loyal client base."

In 2020, Erwan and Sébastien took the time to collate a majority of their best sellers to compose a book published by Solar editions and entitled: “80 recettes faciles et créatives de boulangerie pâtisserie qui vous feront rêver”. (from which the visuals of the following recipes are taken). Utopie, it's not just two people, but a team of 20 bakers, pastry chefs, and sales assistants. "Even if it's a bit of a cliché to say it, you can be the best of chefs, but without a solid and united team, you won't get very far. Some creations can also come from a member of our team who arrives with an idea or the desire to work on something specific. We help them make their dreams come true and if it works the product ends up in the window”.

Without a solid and united team, you won't get very far

In 2016, Erwan and Sébastien took part in the M6 program "La meilleureboulangerie de France ». To their great surprise, they are on a winning streak: "since opening, we’ve been followed by the written press, radio and TV. Some TV reports have brought us new clients, such as the M6 competition. However, we’ve never had a press officer or a community manager: we handle our own social media.” Like many current businesses, Erwan and Sébastien are preparing to increase some of their prices, due to the constant increase in the cost of energy and raw materials. "We've always tried to be careful but it pains us to say we're going to have to raise some of our prices."

The key to Erwan and Sébastien's success: “Above all, you have to master your craftsmanship perfectly. And then, there is no secret: there’s no substitute for hard work.”

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