Twenty days after a string of destructive storms slammed the Central Coast, Pardon My French Bakery decided to add more to its already-brimming plate for the greater good.
“If you donate $20, we’re taking a box of pastries and putting in at least $30 worth of pastries in it,” said Jamie Tejeda, co-owner of the Grover Beach-based bakery. “Then we’re delivering it to first responders, hospitals, doctors, nurses, educators, the post office, and the city workers that have all been working in overdrive with the flooding and getting our city back to normal.”
Jamie runs Pardon My French with her husband and baker, Lalo. They’re a two-person business that has been open since 2016. Depending on the number of custom orders he has slotted for the day, Lalo usually comes into the bakery between 3 and 4 a.m. to prepare all the pastries from scratch. The sole baker, he runs the kitchen and front of house until 10 a.m.
That’s when Jamie arrives to take over customer orders and logistics. Lalo leaves for home soon after to take care of the couple’s two toddlers, and Jamie stays until 3 p.m. or whenever their baked goods sell out. They deliver the aforementioned goodie boxes in their free time.
“We don’t have any staff. Usually, I will go deliver [the boxes], or on our days off we’ll come in to make the boxes and he’ll go take them over,” Jamie said.
Called Spread Love boxes, they can contain some of the store’s ever-changing desserts, like the seasonal peach cobbler cupcakes, apple caramel scones, and lemon poppy seed muffins, along with breakfast pastries. As of Feb. 9, the Tejedas delivered 10 boxes, and have donations for 40 boxes total so far.
Even without the boxes, the treats fly off the shelves quickly. By the afternoon of Feb. 9, the display contained a few thick slabs of cheesecake topped with lemon curd, a handful of rich slices of flourless chocolate torte, and a couple of croissants and financiers, among other treats. Most of the goods have French roots—an ode to Lalo’s culinary training at Minnesota’s Cordon Bleu and work experience at Michelin star restaurants.
Care packages like the Spread Love boxes aren’t the first of their kind at Pardon My French. The Tejedas have been looking out for their neighbors since they opened shop.
“We started it during COVID and it took off,” Jamie said. “We saw the slump people were in and felt like we needed to do our part in trying to hold the spirits around here.”
Jamie was seven months pregnant when the pandemic hit, and her doctor advised her to not interact with the public. In 2020, she didn’t work from March to November, and Lalo took over completely. He juggled serving regular customers with daily baking preparation and orders for custom wedding cakes.
“The community came in and stepped up,” Jamie recalled. “A lot of our regulars knew our story, and they didn’t want anything to happen to us.”
So, Pardon My French kept going during the thick of the pandemic. They shut down indoor dining and allowed customers in one at a time. The line snaked out the door and threaded through the shopping center. Back then, the bakery was open until 5 p.m. and sold out every day by 1 p.m. The Tejedas also distributed 450 boxes to first responders during COVID-19.
“By donating a box, you helped a small business, and you helped the first responders. You could sit at home, make a phone call to us, pay over the phone and you’ve helped two people,” Jamie said. “That’s why we’re doing it again.”
Pardon My French, like many other businesses, is dealing with the high cost of inflation. Eggs, a bakery staple, ballooned in price. Jamie said that Lalo goes through 200 to 250 eggs every week. They’ve switched to buying from a local farm in Los Osos for eggs to offset the cost. Some patrons help, too.
“We have a couple of local people who have Meyer lemon trees, and they bring in their lemons for us,” she said.
As of Feb. 9, the Tejedas were preparing for Valentine’s Day, their busiest day of the year. Lalo triples his bakes, doling out individual cakes, cupcakes, macarons, and dessert boxes for two. Rose, chocolate, and strawberry flavors are heavy hitters in February, and Jamie hoped that the recent holiday crowd would bring a boost to the Spread Love boxes.
She added that beyond the heart-themed holiday, she’s looking forward to continuing to spread the love and revamping the bakery’s menu soon.
“The boxes are true to my heart, I’m a giver,” she said with a laugh. “We have some exciting plans for the end of the year and want to add more to our French flair.”
New Times Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal, from the Sun’s sister paper, will take two chocolate tortes to go. Send more sweets through the editor at [email protected].