Community Spotlight: “Merci Boulangerie” & Natalie Cumberbirch

by Yard Athletics – Oct 16th, 2020

By now you may have heard about Merci Boulangerie, the amazing “taste-of-Paris-without-landing-at-CDG” patissiere from Yard founder Ilan Cumberbirch’s sister, Natalie.

After spending years in Paris working at two Michelin star L’Atlelier de Joel Robuchon and Mamiche, Natalie has brought her talents home to Vancouver to start a pick-up and delivery boulangerie.

If you haven’t yet snagged a sample of Merci’s pastries after your latest Yard workout, do yourself a favor and put in an order for this weekend. All we can say is…OMG. If you lack self control and cannot resist buttery sweet delights, you might be in trouble…

We wanted to hear more about Merci from the woman herself, so we sat down with Natalie to hear about her time in Paris (serving dessert to Scarlett Johansson!), how Merci got started and what’s in plan for the future.

How did you get started working as a pastry chef?
 
As a child, I always had a love for cooking and being in the kitchen. I used to fake sick days and would sit and watch Emeril Lagasse and Ina Garten on the food network for hours. After some time at University, I decided to enroll in pastry school. I took the Culinary Arts program at Vancouver Community College while I was on the waitlist for the pastry program; I worked as a line cook and prep cook at catering companies, and started my own side hustle, Food by Natalie Cumberbirch, delivering diet specific meals to families in Vancouver, eventually catering sit down dinners, bridal shower, and holiday cocktail parties. After completing the pastry program, I worked in a multitude of bakeries in Germany and Barcelona, returned to the west coast to work as the Head Pastry Chef at Tofino Resort and Marina. 6 months later, I was back to Europe to start the unknown at Paris’ finest, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.
 
Where is the coolest place you’ve worked? 
 
Ohh tough question. Would have to be a tie between L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Mamiche. Both polar opposite.
Robuchon is a two Michelin star restaurant where 18 hour days are the norm. I learned a ton of skills; tempering chocolate daily, working and blowing sugar, how to make 80 euro Chartreuse souffles to order without messing up. A big part of what I learned was how to push myself mentally and physically. I remember calling my dad after the first 2 weeks saying I would surprise myself if I could stick it out for 6 months; I stayed at Robuchon the original goal of one year. This was by far the hardest i’ve ever worked, and the french aren’t known for being the warmest of people. Walking into a fast paced kitchen speaking not a lick of french- it wasn’t easy. Living in a hostel for the first month? Also not easy.
Mamiche takes the cake for the most enjoyable workplace. The people I worked with became like family; every morning I would make the coffee for the guys; we would blare french rap or old school french disco. Every few months, the owners Cecile and Victoria (who are huge inspirations for myself) would treat us to dinners out, or weekend away on the coast. People loved coming to work, and it was such an enjoyable place to be. I still chat to a few of the people there on a weekly basis and I think that speaks volumes!
Cooked for any famous people?
 
Made Scarlett Johansson her dessert, took it out to her and tried not to stutter as I explained the components. Apparently, mango and passionfruit are her favourite! Big fan girl moment but I think I kept my cool.
 
What’s your favorite pastry to make? Eat?
 
If bread counts as a pastry? I could eat bread 24/7. Hot out of the oven with salted butter- nothing better. Second best thing- plain croissant. Throw a slice of cheese on that, or some jam. What more could you ask for!
 
Tell us about “Merci Boulangerie”?
 
Merci Boulangerie is my new business venture. It is an online bakery where customers can choose to pick up their order or have it delivered within Vancouver, North Vancouver and Burnaby (subject to change in the coming months). Every product is inspired by my time working in Europe; currently very Parisienne with croissants, pain au chocolat, and the ever so hot roule jambon fromage. I’m confident some German rye breads and sourdoughs will come into play within the next few weeks- stay tuned! My hope is that people appreciate the quality ingredients I use, the time and care that goes into producing a mouth watering product, and know that I am a phone call away, wanting to make this pastry experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.
 
How can we get these insanely delicious pastries into our mouths as quick as possible?? Delivery? Pickup?
 
Yes! I currently offer pick up on Wednesdays and Fridays anytime between 12- 6 pm from 1507 Powell Street, unit 150 (Coho Commissary located directly behind Andina Brewery), and deliver every Tuesday and Saturday between 8am- 11am. Orders can be placed online at merciboulangerie.com; any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email, dm, call or text and i’d be happy to help with the process. If you are looking for weekly or monthly orders delivered to your home or office, this is something we can easily arrange. All wholesale inquiries, please email us at [email protected] for wholesale price lists.
 
What is the go-to order from Merci?
 
I’d say you have to try it all at least once! Currently a sucker for a butter croissant, roule cannelle, and roule jambon fromage… but i’ll let you decide!

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