Every morning, before he leaves for work, French pastry chef David Piquard checks the humidity. But he isn't concerned about pleasant weather. He is gauging what temperature at which he should bake his macarons.
Because these delicacies are so small and so moist and so perfect, the humidity, air temperature and each gram of ingredient count.
Pittsburghers first tasted Mr. Piquard's confections two years ago at Paris 66 in East Liberty, and many have been waiting a long time for him to open his own patisserie. But no one has waited as long as Mr. Piquard, who has been dreaming about it his entire life.
Located at 5837 Forbes Ave. in Squirrel Hill, Gaby et Jules Patisseries et Macarons will have a soft opening Friday and a grand opening later in the fall.
For a chef who demands perfection, it takes time to put together the right space with quality equipment in the right location.
"He's going to completely explode over there," said Frederic Rongier, owner of Paris 66. "He's going to do what he wants to do. ... David unleashed."
The dream of owning a patisserie has been passed through multiple generations of the Piquard and Rongier families. Both patriarchs were car salesmen in France and the dream was never realized. Hence the bakery's name, Gaby et Jules -- a tribute to Mr. Rongier's grandfather, Gabriel, and Mr. Piquard's grandfather, Jules.
Mr. Piquard, born and raised in France and now living in Murrysville, is famous for his colorful macaron creations. These moist, chilled pastries are meringue-based mini sandwiches of two biscuits with a cream filling. At Paris 66, Mr. Piquard makes 17 different flavors, including peach-violet, licorice, caramel, mint, almond and the intriguing white chocolate-basil.
A box of six is priced at $13 and a box of 12 is $25.
Along with the familiar macarons sold at Paris 66, Gaby et Jules will sell pastries including French baguettes, croissants, almond croissants, chocolate bread, palmiers, tarts, eclairs, milles-feuilles and operas. These smaller pastries range between $2.85 and $6.50, and on up for medium and large cakes.
Mr. Rongier, also born and raised in France and now living in Highland Park, convinced Mr. Piquard to leave his job at the famous luxury pastry company Ladurée and come work for him at his new restaurant.
Yet, almost right from the start, the men wanted to start a bakery together.
Paris 66 became the test bed for a bakery "business plan," Mr. Rongier said. They carefully collected customer feedback concerning what kind and how many pastries, especially macarons, they were selling.
And they were selling like hotcakes -- or rather, cool ones.
They found that people would come to the restaurant just for the desserts. Paris 66 sold about 6,000 macarons a month, not much for a bakery but impressive for a restaurant. Mr. Piquard plans to make 2,000 per day at Gaby et Jules, but he'll still spend some of his time baking at Paris 66. The eventual goal is to sell Gaby et Jules macarons in every state.
Each of Mr. Piquard's macarons is uniquely organic, and his inspirations come from nature herself. The smell or color of a flower could easily become the basis of his next flavor.
"He's an artist," Mr. Rongier said.
This can be seen by his elegant creations, each intricately designed. For Mr. Piquard, his pastries must be as pleasing to the eye as they are to the tongue. A display plate includes all colors of the rainbow.
"I am a perfectionist. He is a perfectionist. We are perfectionists," Mr. Rongier said.
Inside Gaby et Jules, the theme is that of a modern jewelry shop, featuring a long counter complete with glass display case. While Paris 66 has a 1920s theme, Gaby et Jules has a more futuristic feel, Mr. Rongier said. Towers of gold-foiled macarons entice customers in the window.
"I want my pastries to become like jewels," Mr. Piquard said. "It's like you want to buy a Rolex."
A television screen featuring Mr. Piquard's work will hang on the wall. There also is an open window for customers to see him and his staff working in the stainless steel "laboratory" -- a glimpse behind the scenes that he says is extremely uncommon for a pastry chef to offer.
Although he was born in France, Mr. Piquard said he now feels his heart is American.
"I want to give to American people the best I can," he said. "Because they deserve that."
"The best that France can offer," Mr. Rongier added.
Gaby et Jules will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Visit gabyetjules.com.
Marina Weis: 412-263-1889 or firstname.lastname@example.org First Published August 29, 2013 4:00 AM