The University of San Francisco’s Authentic French-style Patisserie
Anyone with a sweet tooth that walks into the University of San Francisco’s Market Café is immediately drawn to the display of colorful little desserts at the bakery station. Some call it the dessert bar, and others refer to it as the sweet shop, but most know it as Simone’s Patisserie.
The heart and soul behind this lovely operation at the center of USF’s main dining hall is Catering Sales Manager Simone Joseph. Her dream has always been to run her own boulangerie (bakery), so when given the opportunity to manage the dessert station, she jumped on it.
Born in France, Simone moved to the United States 28 years ago. You can tell right off the bat Simone is French; her sing-song accent and passionate personality come through strong and proud when you first meet her. She has been with Bon Appétit for four years now and commands the dining hall like a conductor leading an orchestra. She nods to a messy table, and suddenly someone is there to clean it. She points at a pitiful sandwich display, and someone jumps forward to stack the wraps into place. She glides through the dining hall swiping up bits of trash, nudging signs into alignment, and assigning tasks to anyone nearby. As she gave me a tour of the facility, she periodically broke into French with a couple of students: I could tell immediately she has a great relationship with her customers. The patisserie has only been in operation since April 2011, but within a year and a half, Simone already has an archive of over 100 varieties of delectable desserts that have been offered in her café.
She’s strategic about the products she sells: the options are always changing depending on preferences, days of the week, and often just for the sake of keeping it mysterious and fun. She knows on Thursday nights, for example, she is going to get an older crowd of customers from the school’s evening classes, so she makes sure to have sugar-free treats stocked. Her most popular items are the macarons, which are a bite-size dessert that is sure to satisfy even the biggest sweet craving. Simone spent one rainy Saturday scouring all the macaron places in San Francisco to find the best ones for her patisserie and it has paid off because they have gotten so popular that even catering has started offering them.
Simone is especially passionate about serving sizes. If you ever visit the patisserie, you will notice that most of the treats are petite and dainty. There is nothing Simone dislikes more than an oversized cookie. “I believe in real good cookies made with butter, sugar and real ingredients like chocolate chips, almonds, nuts etc…but smaller sizes.” She believes that if someone wants more, they can always get more, but selling a treat the size of your face just encourages unhealthful eating habits. Whatever Simone is doing, there is no doubt it is working. Even late into the afternoon, after the lunch rush has passed, there remains a substantial line of students eagerly waiting for their treats.