Ashley and Gautier Coiffard are the owners of L’Appartement 4F bakery in Brooklyn. Gautier started cooking recreationally in 2019, and the couple started selling bread and pastries via Instagram in 2020 to cover the costs of their wedding. One of their most popular products is the “petit croissant cereale”, which consists of hand-rolled miniature croissants. The now-married couple are set to open their brick-and-mortar bakery in Brooklyn Heights in April 2022.
ASHLEY COIFFARD: Gautier and I met the old-fashioned way, in a bar, in 2016. We had no mutual friends. We just met for a drink and we got along really well. We’ve been somewhat inseparable since that night. We got engaged three years later in 2019 and bought an apartment. At that time, he was still an engineer. No baking or anything like that. I was going to school to become a nurse. He started random cooking in 2019. I don’t even think he told me he wanted to. He did it slyly. He made a stick or a ball.
GAUTIER COIFFARD: A ball. I’ve been here in the US for about 10 years now, and I missed the bread and croissants of my childhood in France. It was really a challenge for me to try and replicate what I ate when I was younger. I couldn’t really find a bakery that I liked in New York, so that was a motivation for me.
ASHLEY: He made a round loaf, and I was eating it and I said, “That’s really good,” and he told me he made it from scratch. I couldn’t even understand how to make bread. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool.” I hadn’t realized how difficult it was, that he had been preparing for days. I had no idea.
He slowly started cooking just for us. Then he made a croissant one day – randomly, again. He handed it to me in bed. Finally, I said, “That’s really good. We should share this with other people. And that’s kind of how the cooking started. We were just a very normal couple with no baking experience.
The croissant cereal, however, was my idea. I was on TikTok and saw mini cereal pancakes – I love small dishes – so I asked Gautier to make little croissants for cereal and he said: “Absolutely not. It is a ridiculous concept.
I thought Americans would really like it, and he was totally against it. Then one day I came home from work and he was rolling mini croissants. I asked “What is this?” And he said, “I thought of a way to make it work.” So he made little mini croissants.
At first they looked like little chicken nuggets, and that bothered him. We wanted them to be cinnamon flavored, so he infuses the simple syrup with cinnamon sticks, pours it over and dehydrates the croissants for seven hours after baking them. It’s so much work, and we underestimated how many people would buy them. We had to turn off the orders because he rolls mini croissants all day. That’s all he does.
Gautier: My family and friends were a little skeptical at first. I went to engineering school, I’m an engineer now, so why would I be a baker? With so many bakeries in France, it’s not really a well paid job. So there were a lot of doubts. But I hope they come to the idea. They arrived a few weeks ago.
ASHLEY: Her parents were scared of the croissant cereal. We had an extra so they tried it. They were like, “Oh, that’s really good.” All the while, they ate handfuls of it nonstop. We were like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! You don’t understand how much time and effort it takes to make them.
Gautier: But we are happy to have created something different, because bread, croissants, all of that already exists.
ASHLEY: It’s really fun to have a quirky little niche product that people everywhere love. For example, Nancy Myers is the director of all these films that I make Gautier watch. While we rolled croissants, we watched The parent trap, father of the brideand Vacations. Next thing I know we’re Instagramming her and sending her a crescent-shaped box of cereal. So many people have reached out to us that we would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. We are very, very grateful for this weird little product. But it would be much better if we went viral for our cookies, because then we could sleep.
We gave it to an influencer who posted it on TikTok, and it got millions of views. That’s when it got crazy. I was sitting there reading about us, thinking, “Oh, my God. I had no idea cereal could make people so angry.
People don’t realize that it takes three days to make a small croissant. It’s so laborious that if we could charge more, we would. But I thought, “Oh, $50 is too much to ask for a box of cereal. We decided to keep it at the same price we listed the cereal for on Kickstarter, thinking few people would buy it. Cereals would only be a small luxury product. Hundreds of people bought it, and people would buy more than one box and pay $20 just to ship it to Los Angeles. So there’s a strange market for it, a market we didn’t expect. Honestly, it’s been crazy. None of us have ever worked in a restaurant or a bakery or in a food-related job.
Gautier: I did it in France.
ASHLEY: He worked at McDonald’s in France for a month in college. But he worked at the cash register. He did not handle the food. That’s as far as our track record goes with the restaurant industry.
We really had no idea what we were doing. And we really didn’t think it was going to take off at all. We were supposed to get married last summer, so we thought we could just pay for the flowers with the money from the croissants. We didn’t even think it was possible.
We really had no game plan at the very beginning. I did the dishes in our little sink for the first two weeks, and I couldn’t take it anymore, so we bought a dishwasher. Every next step was very organic, we figured things out by trial and error. We are still learning, and each day is chaotic but very fun, exhilarating and rewarding. There were certainly plenty of nights when he was still cooking at three in the morning, getting things ready for the next day, and I was doing the dishes. We’d be like, “Are we just going to quit, delete the Instagram account, and move on?” It was too much.
By March 2021, we had pretty much exhausted our space. We bought a freezer for the bedroom so the whole apartment was a functional kitchen. Our oven literally blew up one day, like it had had enough. Luckily there were no orders or anything that day.
In March we also did something with new York magazine called Cookie Edit. They ordered 1,500 cookies from us and 11 other New York bakeries to raise money for restaurant workers. We said, “Oh, yeah, 1,500 cookies. How hard could that be?” We ended up shaking and crying until two in the morning baking them cookies every week, saying, “ We can’t do that anymore.
Our apartment is 479 square feet, and only about two feet is our kitchen. It’s really small. We asked someone to take a look at our numbers, and they said, “Send me the real numbers. They are crazy. Send me actual data, not projections. We were like, “No, those are the numbers. These are the sales we are doing right now. And he was just blown away. He was like, “You need retail space like, yesterday.”
It all sort of fell into place very quickly after we decided to get retail space. A real estate agent contacted us and the Brooklyn Heights Association said, “If you’re looking for space, the neighborhood really needs the bakery.” It all happened in the same week.
I think people will continue to order online once brick and mortar opens, but hopefully they can get their orders less than a month early. Once we have a big oven and staff, we can fill orders faster and the waiting list won’t be that long. We have diehard customers on the Upper West Side who say, “Please, please, please always deliver.” They’re afraid we’re a bakery in Brooklyn that only delivers locally. They don’t want us to switch to another model.
Gautier: What I like about us is that we are complementary in the profession. I’m in the kitchen and Ashley takes care of marketing and customer relations. So I think we are a good team. We both have something the other doesn’t, and we learn from each other.
ASHLEY: It required us to spend 24/7 together. I really like Gaultier and he makes me laugh. I am the one who is always stressed and very critical. Gautier is very relaxed and positive and can always crack a joke, even when I think the world is ending. So seeing him and spending more time with him…honestly, that was the highlight of my life.
Gautier: I also don’t know how to talk to customers.
ASHLEY: In the beginning, when we were taking orders through Instagram, it was mostly me talking to customers and getting to know them. I’m more American, so I have a more customer-oriented personality, whereas Gaultier is a little tougher. He’s… I don’t want to say French, but he’s very French. I asked him to reply to some of the messages, and reading his replies I was mortified because he was so straight to the point. People were asking, “Can I order?” and he was like, “No, thank you.” We had to strike a happy balance where he would read my messages, and I would edit his messages to make them a little softer. It’s kind of funny, but we decided maybe it was better for me to be the voice behind the bakery, because it’s so relevant.
Moving the bakery into a physical space was a whole new adventure. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done as a couple or as individuals. Every day brings new challenges. I’m a bit more creative and less concerned about our budget. Gautier is obviously very budget conscious and tries to cheer me up and keep me grounded.
Our relationship is about croissants at this point. We have a wedding we’re supposed to plan. It’s six months away, and we haven’t even thought about invitations. Today we were talking about it, like, “Remember that wedding we were saving money for when we first started? We should really plan this.