On the corner of Tompkins and Putnam Avenues sits a small patisserie called La Table Exquise, a slice of France in Bedford Stuyvesant.
Inside, its walls are decorated in warm pink, a nice compliment to the restaurant’s colorful array of pastries and French art. Here is where you’ll also find the restaurant’s most important ingredient, Chef Sebastian, preparing a new pastry dish, as he does every morning.
Sebastian is a 35-year-old Parisian man, and the proud owner of La Table Exquise.
He moved to Brooklyn six years ago from Paris, and he is the first to open a patisserie in the neighborhood. Sebastian says he wanted to bring French food to Bedford Stuyvesant to share his culture and allow his neighbors to try something new.
“If you want to open yourself up to the world, you have to try different things, different foods,” he says. “I myself try any food from any country. I want to see what’s new.”
“The food in France is recognized by everybody in the world,” he says.
His admiration for French chefs, such as Joèl Robuchon, keeps him working and keeps him alive. “I started to cook because I want to be like Robuchon,” Sebastian says.
Sebastian enjoys the art of the pastry because it’s about precision and technique. One should learn from a school or teacher to master an art, he says.
Sebastian learned to cook from other chefs at the age of 15, taking on odd jobs at restaurants during his summer and weekend months. After he finished high school, he went to work for the hotel and restaurant business, digesting as much advice and technique as he could:
“You have to be very, very courageous to do the job. It takes a lot of energy to work in the kitchen. You work 14- to 15-hour days.”
But “I love it,” Sebastian says. “It is beautiful work to cook for people.”
Sebastian says he loves Bed-Stuy because it reminds him of his neighborhood back in Paris. He believes in bringing a new culture and a new food to the community, and he also caters to its health needs. La Table Exquise prepares many sugar-free pastries because diabetes is prevalent for residents in the community.
“I want to give [the neighborhood] quality,” he says.
Sebastian works only with fresh produce daily, preparing each pastry from scratch. He said he likes to change the pastry options each day, allowing customers to try something new every time they come in.
“That is what food is about – simplicity and freshness,” he says.
One customer came in to buy a plain croissant and have it prepared as an egg sandwich across the street. The customer first heard about the patisserie from a friend.
As for his favorite, “I’m a chocolate person. Everything I do is chocolate,” he says.
So, it’s no wonder that La Table has become known for its chocolate croissants.
La Table Exquise hosts events, as well. In December, the pastry shop hosted a fashion designer showcase and fundraiser event.
In the future, Sebastian would like to expand his patisserie into a restaurant. He takes great pride in his work, and would like to see his name recognized outside of New York.
He says he might even consider opening a patisserie back in hometown of Paris, competing with the best of them – something he believes he can do.