21 June 2011

The Home of Voilà Croissants

Many has been the time when, approaching the cashier as some nondescript deli, my eye has been caught by a display of pre-packaged Voilà Croissants. The sight has always amused and appalled me. In a city like New York, where wonderful bakeries are everywhere, who would satisfy their croissant needs in this processed way? And the name—Voilà—in letters the colors of the French flag. Could the packaging be any more cheesy?

During a trip to Bushwick recently, I passed by the Voilà factory by accident. Curious about the company, I consulted their website when I got home. Turns out they make much more than croissants, including muffins, rolls, pastries and frozen dough for just about everything. 

But here's the real shocker. The company was founded in 1976 was a veteran of the tony La Grenouille Restaurant, which is still the standard bearer for fine French cuisine in New York. Founder Frank Kitchens says he was the pastry chef there. He created Voilà to satisfy "the need for better quality fresh baked products." Is this true? I don't know. I can find no other information about Kitchens outside the Voilà site. But it would be ironic and funny if it were.


upstate Johnny G said...

There is definitely an aspect of the restaurant biz where someone gets the idea to spin off a product line to a more, shall we say, industrial form of production rather than artisanal as practiced at the restaurant. There are some celebrity chefs with multiple restaurants who have established "commissaries" to make some menu items at a central location, from which they are then shipped to the restaurants. This, I think, goes hand in hand with the very idea of celebrity chefs being a brand- it's a short jump from there to the idea of becoming one's own "chain", albeit of higher quality (one would hope).

In this case I suspect that the founder may have recognized that the restaurant customers loved the croissants and also that croissants were not widely available or in an easy=to-vend form. Hence the idea of a mass-market pre-packaged version that can be sold in any little shop. There must be buyers for them, because they're still being made, but it is funny to think of this as essentially a brainchild of someone who came from one of the city's most illustrious French restaurants, isn't it? What will be next? Wolfgang Puck Frozen Pizza? Oops! Been there, done that!

Perry said...

After reading the Voila site, it appears their target market is restaurants and institutional food service more than retailing through delis, etc.

Alex E. said...

But they're so delicious! Both the chocolate and almond ones.