Tiffany and Raffi Sepetjian are serious foodies who love to travel, particularly to France where they have family.
Even though Raffi has a large independent cigar business in California and Tiffany owned a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory franchise, their true passion revolved around a dream to open an authentic French boulangerie, similar to the ones they had often enjoyed on the streets of Paris.
That vision became a plan five years ago. They named it Pandor, an abbreviation of the French words "pain d'or," meaning golden bread.
As we sat at a table in the spanking new café, nibbling on goodies, the delightful and effusive Tiffany told us how their dream came to fruition.
First, they had to find a baker and were lucky enough to meet Julien Pietravalle in France, a young French master baker from Ste. Maxime in Provence, where he owns his own bakery. He also taught at France's National Baking Institute.
They formed a partnership and he came here to assist them with setting up production. This included getting all their equipment from France including deck ovens with stone floors. This produces a slow baked artisanal product that must be made in small quantities.
Last September, they opened RTR, a wholesale baking company, which supplies breads to an impressive list of Orange County's finest restaurants including: the Montage, the Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, Pascal's Brasseries and Andrei's.
In June, their dream of opening an authentic French boulangerie and café became a reality. Two more chefs had come on board, so while Chef Julien oversees the bread making, French chef Serge Bertrand has created an array of fabulous pastries.
French-born Chef Eric Cunin, who now lives in Los Angeles, is developing the café menu with salads and interesting sandwiches and paninis. (He was once the private chef to a Saudi princess in Beverly Hills.)
All three have scrupulously trained the staff to execute their recipes. The plan is for them to return four times a year to make sure quality is maintained and to keep the menu fresh. In the meantime they all Skype from places afar.
Tiffany's goal is to re-create the authentic breads and pastries of France. When you walk into a boulangerie in Paris, you are first confronted by a vast array of beautiful breads; so, too, at Pandor.
Then, as you look down the long display case, you see an assortment of salads such as Provençal ratatouille or beluga lentils and after that, the arresting, colorful display of mouthwatering pastries from Paris-Brest to luscious fruit tarts to an assortment of croissants. The delicious almond croissant is our personal favorite.
A recent customer came back in to tell Tiffany, "Your croissants have saved us a trip to Paris."
Everything is made fresh every day. Baking begins at 6:30 a.m. and whatever is not sold goes to shelters for some very lucky homeless people.
The process of making the bread takes three days. The dough for the baguette du chef is fermented for 12 hours and then put through a machine from France that continuously rolls out and layers the dough in a process called lamination.
This dough is also used for the wonderful multi-grain bread with sunflower, poppy and flax seed and the bacon bread. We tasted an amazing sandwich called the Ste. Maxime club made with the bacon bread, cheese, arugula, tomato turkey and pesto cheese spread.
Breakfast is served weekdays until noon and on weekends until 3 p.m. Of course, they feature omelets, croque monsieur, croque madam and quiches as well as California-style dishes. Their brewed coffee is from Portola Coffee Lab at the OC Mart Mix.
We were mighty impressed with Tiffany's energy and passion for this project especially when we discovered that she is the mother of three small children, including an 8-month-old, and somehow manages to do a great job on both fronts.
On a beautiful sunny day in Newport Beach, what could be nicer than sitting outdoors under an umbrella, in front of Pandor, sipping an excellent espresso and munching on a gorgeous fresh fruit tart. Bon appétit!
ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where: 1126 Irvine Ave (next to Starbucks in Westcliff Plaza shopping center)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily