Business Owner: Andre Tsalpatouros
Business: Pierre Country Bakery
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Meet Andre Tsalpatouros
Andre is a French baker who has lived all over the world. His travels brought him to Utah and he is now the owner of Pierre Country Bakery in Salt Lake City. He takes pride in his work, and in the quality of the ingredients he uses. “We bake everything fresh from scratch, nothing out of the bucket. For example if we are going to do an éclair, we are going to do the pate au choux in house. We import our chocolate from Ecuador. We import our vanilla beans from Madagascar. We do a real pastry cream. We do everything in house, to produce a fresh preservative-free product.” Andre said, “I claim to have the best croissant in Utah. Maybe I’m delusional, but so far I haven’t found a better one.”
Pierre Country Bakery has been around for 27 years now. A French baker named Jean Pierre opened it, and Andre has been the owner for the last 3 years. To some that may seem a short amount of time, but for Andre seems to be a lot longer. “You know baker years are much longer than regular human years,” said Andre. When one considers the hours and the hard work he puts in to provide his products, it’s hard to argue.
Andre was a business owner in Africa—”Nothing to do with food,” he says, and he fell into baking very late in his life. “I have a true passion for food. I love cooking. I love bread. I discovered there was a lot more to bread than mixing some flour with water and putting it in the oven, it just doesn’t work like that. So I got passionate about it. I went to France and did an apprenticeship with a French master.” Andre also told us, “You never really finish your apprenticeship, but when my master considered I was good enough to fly solo, I found Pierre Bakery and I bought it.”
Pierre Country Bakery is the only full service bakery left in Utah. “What I mean by that is: bread, cakes and desserts, pastries for the morning, and savory items. We are the only ones doing the whole line. If you go to our competitors, some will have some items and some will have others. None of them will have everything, and even fewer of them will make them from scratch, so we are extremely proud of that.”
Of course this doesn’t mean that Andre doesn’t face challenges everyday. He expressed that flour is a lot different in Utah than it is in France, and that the difference in elevation really affects the product. Of course challenges are part of the journey. “The journey is amazing so far. I learn everyday. We keep growing in what we do. We are humble enough to accept the fact that we can do better tomorrow and because of that, I think we have a bright future. It’s all about quality. As a customer you come and if it’s good, there is a great chance you will come back, and if it’s not good, there is an even greater chance that you won’t be back. With that knowledge it’s easy to try and be better.”
“Some days it’s amazing, and we have some days when we look and say ‘that’s not what I was expecting, and I need to start over’. Those days are tough.” Pierre Bakery does many other unique things, like deliver all through the Salt Lake and Utah valleys, providing wholesale goods for resorts, hotels, and other businesses. “The retail store is really the tip of the iceberg, its only 10 percent of our sales; all the rest is wholesale. We also do farmers markets in downtown Salt Lake in the summer. We love it, it’s an absolute blast.”
Over the years they have strived to stay true to using only top ingredients and their passion really shows. They have proved themselves to the community. “We really are true artisan. We use top ingredients, as fresh as possible. In summer we work with farmers to source our food. Our fruit pies, and fruit tarts have organic fresh, locally grown products. Its great, it’s just food the way it should be.
“At the end of the day, most of what we do has very few ingredients, bread is flour, water, yeast, and salt, so if you don’t do it right, it just doesn’t taste good. That’s why a lot of people add preservatives, and shortening, and milk to make it better. It doesn’t need that. It just needs time, love and true passion, which we try to keep alive.”
Andre’s biggest win is a returning customer. He expounded a little more on this and said, “I know it may sound cheesy but you know ‘biggest win’ in the food business can not be defined by one customer, because it’s a never ending challenge. The truth is you are only as good as your last delivery; you are only as good as your last bread. There is no big win other than trying to be consistent every day and having a customer returning regularly, that’s a real big win.”
Thinking of starting your own business? Andre’s advice would be to not get discouraged. “It’s hard no matter what. I do not know a successful business owner that was not persistent, tenacious, and stubborn in a way, in the vision he had for his business. And they fought for it despite the odds. There are going to be harder days than others, but if you stick to your strengths and values, you will succeed. If you try to have a quick win and easy money, there is a greater chance you are going to fail. Respect your customers. It’s easy to lose track of common sense, take a short cut, and think that no one will see. I unfortunately do not have a miracle recipe. I work 18-20 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are days when it’s easier than others to do that, but I just push through. I don’t know any successful business owner that has not worked hard, and treated their customers the way they would want to be treated if they were the customer.”