January /February 2015
The sun won’t be up for at least another three or four hours when Alejandra Sprouts arrives for work. The head pastry chef and co-proprietor at the newly-opened La Brioche patisserie in Jackson unlocks the doors to her 1200 square foot kitchen in basement of Fondren Corners around 3:30 a.m. By the time the horizon turns pink from the first hints of a sunrise, Sprouts is pulling her first round of breakfast pastries from a stainless steel commercial oven. The pastries quickly make their way upstairs to the bakery storefront, where a few early bird customers are waiting to get their worm – or in this case, a freshly baked, from-scratch croissant still warm from the oven. It’s an experience that, until recently, most Jacksonians never had the opportunity to experience.
La Brioche is the brainchild of Sprouts and her sister Cristina Lazzari. Originally from Argentina, the girls arrived in the United States as preteens, but have since traveled and lived all over the world. They came to Mississippi to help their parents establish a farm that would later become the first certified organic farm in the state.
In 2010, a tornado destroyed the farm’s greenhouse. What might seem like a devastating event to most became the opportunity Sprouts needed to pursue a different dream. She decided to attend L’Art de la Patisserie program at the French Pastry School in Chicago, Ill. There she learned the fine art of making pastries under the direction of renowned chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F.
“The minute I stepped into the school, I said to myself, ‘Yes, this is what I want to be doing,’” recalls Sprouts.
Sprouts completed a six months internship at the school and gained experience through jobs at various hotels, restaurants and bakeries in Chicago.
“It was extremely hard, but I worked with some amazing chefs and the lessons I learned were invaluable,” she adds.
Sprouts left the Windy City in 2013 to rejoin her sister in Mississippi with the hopes of launching a new business venture.
“I like coffee and Alejandra has always liked sugar and pastries,” Larazzi explains. “We knew if we ever went into business together, it needed to be something focused around that.”
The sisters started with a 900 square foot commercial kitchen space on Highway 80 in Jackson. They sold their confections at the Mississippi Farmer’s Market on High Street, eventually landing a few commercial accounts including Sneaky Beans coffee and Whole Foods.
Adds Larazzi, “The business grew much faster than we expected. We always sold out at the farmer’s market and people were constantly asking us where our store was.”
The sisters looked at several storefronts around the Jackson area before fellow Fondren business owner Ron Chane convinced them to visit an empty retail space in Fondren Corners.
Says Sprouts, “He told us ‘I have the perfect place for you.’ When we saw this location, we knew that Fondren was the right place to start.”
“This is a great business community. You feel very welcome and a lot of people in this area support local business,” Larazzi adds.
When it came to the storefront design, Larazzi and Sprouts wanted customers to feel like they just stepped off the streets of Jackson and into a Parisian café.
“In Sweden and Italy, they have places where you go and sit down and enjoy coffee and a pastry,” Larazzi says. “I missed that kind of ambiance and we wanted to introduce it to Jackson and give everyone an opportunity to have access to something like this and be able to appreciate it.”
La Brioche officially opened its doors in October 2014 to overwhelming support. In fact, for the first month they sold out every single day. The sisters have done some tweaking to their business hours and Sprouts has since hired two additional chefs to help her keep up with the demand. However, Sprouts does still recommend that customers come early.
In addition to freshly baked croissants, bagels, Danish pastries, and brioche buns, La Brioche’s menu includes a variety of items not commonly found anywhere else in Mississippi. Patrons can also enjoy gourmet cookies from all over the world such as Argentinean alfajores and German linzer cookies, brightly colored French macarons, bite-sized cheesecakes and tartes, and a wide assortment of homemade gelatos. Everything served in the bakery is either made from scratch or sourced locally. All the breakfast pastries take at least two days to prepare and are made the morning they are sold.
“You cannot have a day-old croissant,” she points out.
The bakery also sells freshly baked bread from Gil’s Bread in Ridgeland, milk from T&R Dairy in Libery, Miss., and coffee from North Shore Specialty Coffees in Brandon. All of the bakery’s eggs come from Brown Egg Company in Bentonia, Miss.
While their business has proved to be wildly successful, the sisters have no plans of slowing down. They are still working on adding additional menu items and expanding the catering side of the business.
“I put in a lot of long hours and it is a lot of work,” says Sprouts, “But no matter how tired I am, this has been my dream and I love it.”