Kristen Sisco (pictured) had been dreaming of opening a French bakery for years before officially opening the doors to La Fête Pâtisserie Française. Photo courtesy La Fête Pâtisserie Française

Kristen Sisco (pictured) had been dreaming of opening a French bakery for years before officially opening the doors to La Fête Pâtisserie Française. Photo courtesy La Fête Pâtisserie Française

Inside new Mercer Island bakery La Fête Pâtisserie Française

The eatery, which opened in July, specializes in traditional French pastries.

La Fête Pâtisserie Française, a new French bakery on Mercer Island, officially opened in the middle of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic — an impressive feat few can attest to pulling off.

But the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the opening of La Fête Pâtisserie Française is only one part of a larger narrative that’s been years in the making — a unique grand finale of, or a new beginning to, a long-standing dream.

For most of her adult life, the bakery’s owner, Kristen Sisco, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, didn’t work in “the pastry realm,” as she puts it. Although baking was always something she was passionate about, she initially studied and then worked in architecture, cultivating expertise in design work.

A few years ago, Sisco decided to switch gears. She’d long had this irrepressible interest and dedication to pastry-making — particularly the niche “high-end, French” kind. So why not pursue it?

She wasn’t going to merely become an expert in this area of cuisine: she was going to more ambitiously open her own shop specializing in French pastries. In 2015, she went back to school — Seattle Central, specifically — to study. She was mentored by a chef hailing from Normandy, a region of northwestern France.

“He was a great help, and a great resource, really dialing in this specific French technique — ‘the French way,’ as opposed to ‘the American way,’” Sisco said.

Sisco had spent a lot of time in France in the course of her life, she said. But after completing her education, she embarked on several sojourns in the country, “doing R&D work and trying to nail down my concept, branding.” She additionally worked with a Las Vegas-based chocolatier on a cookbook.

A sample of some of the bakery’s offerings. Photo courtesy La Fête Pâtisserie Française

A sample of some of the bakery’s offerings. Photo courtesy La Fête Pâtisserie Française

These experiences, Sisco said, helped “expand some of my knowledge, and to get in preparation for [my business].”

She subsequently went on a search for the perfect location for the shop, and 18 months were spent considering potential spaces in Bellevue. At the end of 2018, she finally settled on the current site on Mercer Island — a space that once housed Vietnamese restaurant I Love Pho — and signed the lease.

“I saw the space and just thought it had a lot of potential and a lot of opportunities,” said Sisco, noting that one of her daughters and several friends also live on the Island.

Renovation work began immediately. It was just wrapping up, after more than a year of work, when, in March, coronavirus concerns led Gov. Jay Inslee to issue a stay-at-home order. Sisco said that at the time, La Fête Pâtisserie Française was just about two weeks away from opening. She decided to delay the start date and continue getting things prepared; she said the quick change in development was “shocking,” a feeling exacerbated by how long it had taken to get La Fête Pâtisserie Française ready for the public. A GoFundMe page was published to help raise money for outstanding needs.

“The community’s just been so wonderful,” Sisco said. “I mean, for the last probably seven or eight months of construction, people would come by and are just really interested, and just say, ‘we can’t wait for you to be here.’”

Sisco, characteristic for any new business owner, was anxious about how La Fête Pâtisserie Française’s rescheduled opening day (July 17) would unfold.

“You can make projections, but you don’t exactly know how it’s gonna go,” Sisco said. “And then, on top of that, layering COVID. You just don’t really have a sense about how comfortable people are going to be coming out and trying things.”

But the response turned out to be “wonderful,” Sisco said. The whole weekend saw large swaths of customers, and the business continues to be way busier than predicted, Sisco said.

A behind-the-scenes look at the bakery. Photo courtesy La Fête Pâtisserie Française

A behind-the-scenes look at the bakery. Photo courtesy La Fête Pâtisserie Française

In imagining her bakery, Sisco sought to make her offerings uniquely, contemporarily French — no Americanized intrusions. La Fête Pâtisserie Française offers expected concoctions like croissants and breakfast pastries, but it also emphasizes intricate mousse cakes, tarts, entremets and meringues.

“It’s really trying to make things that are high quality and that taste good, but that are [also] really beautiful aesthetically,” Sisco said. “It’s another way of using creativity and design.”

She said that at La Fête Pâtisserie Française, the menu will rotate seasonally — ensuring it is chef-driven — and that additional refreshments like coffee and tea are just as high-caliber. The coffee, all organic, comes from Olympia’s Batdorf & Bronson. Teas are French-imported.

COVID-19-related obstacles, in tandem with the requisite kinks that come with opening a new business, are to be expected. Sisco is still dedicating much time to properly training new employees, all while maintaining county-mandated health protocols. She hasn’t yet been able to dedicate time to the more high-level dishes she wants to offer customers.

Sisco said that so far, the biggest challenges have been trying to meld her original concept with the limitations imposed by the pandemic (namely having to put more of an emphasis on take-out options), and navigating how to make sure that staff and guests are safe and feel comfortable.

For Sisco, maintaining a sense of perseverance has been crucial.

“There’s not an option but to just move ahead — whatever comes to you, you just deal with it,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to get through this initial opening…I’m very happy to be here.”

For more information about La Fête Pâtisserie Française, click here.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@mi-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.mi-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

[flipp]

More in Business

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Coronavirus stimulates RV sales and rentals | Brunell

Before the pandemic came ashore, the number of active camping households was increasing.

Stock photo
Union files charges against QFC, Fred Meyer over Black Lives Matter button ban

Grocery store workers condemn ban; QFC spokesperson says wristband options available to employees

Mercer Island Martial Arts kicks into online classes

Business has been thriving on the Island for 23-plus years.

Facebook purchases unused Bellevue REI headquarters

The companies will also each donate $1 million to the Eastrail

Mercer Island business survey results released

Survey completed by 269 businesses.

Amazon adds more office space to Bellevue, now as many new jobs as HQ2

The office space for an additional 10,000 jobs, making it 25,000 coming to downtown, is expected to complete in 2023.

The pandemic’s roots: UW Bothell team models the coronavirus

A team of computational scientists has developed web-based software that maps the virus’ protein spikes.

Free face masks available at King County Safeway locations

Stores to distribute 750,000 purchased by King County starting Aug. 24

Don Brunell
Coronavirus comeback for Alaska Airlines?

It is no secret that airlines were clobbered by the coronavirus pandemic.… Continue reading

Survey on tap for Mercer Island business owners

An 18-question survey is now online geared toward Mercer Island business owners… Continue reading

File Photo
LA Fitness to reopen all locations Aug. 10

Gyms will follow state guidelines

Mercer Island in the fall. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
New (but temporary) outdoor seating permitting options available on Mercer Island

The city council recently approved an ordinance that allows restaurants to use vehicle stalls in private parking areas for outdoor seating.