Kosher with a French twist
The gig: Owner of Delice Bakery, a French-style kosher bakery that opened on Pico Boulevard in 2001, and owner of Delice Bistro, which opened next door this year and features French and organic kosher cuisine.
Background: Born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1954. Left for France when he was 17 to study architecture but never graduated from college. Worked with a brother in two Paris restaurants but they decided to emigrate to the United States in 1981 because of a sense of growing racism and anti-Semitism in France. The brothers briefly ran a restaurant in the Fairfax district. Then Bohbot became a waiter and a sommelier and eventually quit to spend 20 years selling real estate.
Current businesses: Bought a bakery in 2001 and paid a local kosher baker to teach him the craft. Bohbot added a French flair to the refurbished business and it took off. By 2005, customers were suggesting that he open a restaurant. Bohbot spent $800,000 and two years obtaining permits and completing construction of Delice Bistro, which he says is off to a good start. “We did it the French style, and many of the customers don’t even realize it is kosher,” Bohbot said.
Kosher: The rules by which the kosher bakery and bistro operate originate in the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Book of Leviticus. Observant Jews don’t mix foods that contain milk and milk products with foods that contain meat, so many of their offerings are made without any dairy products or animal fat. Rabbis certify food production to make sure everything is done according to Jewish law. Delice Bakery and the bistro are under the supervision of Kahilla of Los Angeles, a kosher certification agency.
Goal: “Before I opened the bakery I could not find a good French kosher bakery here in Southern California,” Bohbot said. “I wanted to bring something new and a different taste to kosher food here in Los Angeles. Thank God it has done well, and we have lots of Jewish and non-Jewish customers now. I think we make the best croissant of any bakery in town.”
Personal: Married with three children.
Advice: It takes four things to be successful in the restaurant industry. One is the food. Two is the service. Three is the atmosphere and four is the pricing. “If you don’t have all of those four things, something is missing, and you won’t do very well,” he said.
Challenge: Operating a kosher restaurant is hard because it is closed about 25 days a year for Jewish holidays plus every Friday night and all Saturdays during the summer. It is closed because the strict observance of the Sabbath requires that Jews do no work from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Delice Bistro has 30 employees, and it is expensive to keep them working when it is closed so often, Bohbot said.
Favorite foods: Sushi, pasta and fish.
Culture shock: The culinary differences between France and Los Angeles.
Recent challenges: Coping with higher prices for flour, oil and other commodities: “It really hurt my profit margin. I increased prices a bit to try to cover the expenses, but I couldn’t raise prices too much or the customers would not come in,” Bohbot said.
Biggest failure: Started out with 15 kinds of breads. But that was too many, so Bohbot cut it down to the eight bestselling breads. The seven-grain bread is the most popular.
Biggest hit: Line of croissants, including a plain, a chocolate, an almond and a brioche -- a very soft croissant made with pure butter.
The future: Considering opening several storefront bakeries. Food still would be produced at the original bakery, but having several more outlets would give Delice greater geographic reach.