"Who's the next lucky one?" called out the dynamic Nathalie Gautier to the crowd of customers lined up nearly out the door of A L'Epi de Blé French Bakery. Clearly, it's a busy time of year.
Two and a half years ago, Nathalie and Gilles Gautier, both bakers, decided to leave the warmth and sunshine and sea air of Marseille, in the south of France, to set up shop in Winnipeg. Adoring fans from all across the city flock to the Main Street bakery for their French specialties.
"As we do in France, we have different traditions for Christmas," explained Nathalie Gautier. One of the specialties is the Yule log, or Bûche de Noël, a cake filled with cream, rolled into the shape of a log.
Gautier insists it is very light. "After a big meal, even if it's a huge meal, I can tell you, you have room for this kind of dessert," she said, laughing.
In France, they would normally begin a Christmas meal with seafood. But as the same seafood is not available here, her husband, who handles the bread making duties, makes little appetizers, or amuses bouches, of flaky pastry filled with sausage or cheese.
Natalie handles the pastry and she's baked up lots of festive cookies, including some gluten-free and dairy-free. "I can tell you we have a big success because usually this kind of cookie is just good enough for your dog. But this time, no it's very nice," she joked.
The bakery also carries the Rougié brand of foie gras and other duck products imported from France. "It's a specialty of France," she said. "You can go anywhere and it is a must on the table. It's very traditional."
Foie gras will definitely be on her family's Christmas table. That will be followed by roast duck with potatoes. "I love duck," she said. "It's quite light. I don't like when my meal is too heavy because we love dessert!"
Gautier says she always dreamed of moving to Canada. When she was younger, she spent nearly two years as a nanny in Toronto and promised herself that one day she would return. She convinced her husband to come with her, and he fell in love with Canada, too.
"I can tell you I'm very pleased. It was not a mistake to come here," she said. "I'm very happy to be in this area, especially."
She says she's not at all bothered by the cold. "You know we live inside, not outside. I'm better with the cold than with the heat."
A L'Epi de Blé French Bakery is located at 1757 Main Street at Hartford, between Inkster and Leila.