By Jeremy Walsh
East Elmhurst's Cannelle Patisserie is easy to miss if one gets distracted by the giant green Waldbaum's awning next door, but the eight-month-old business is worth a look.
Inside you will see the work of two pastry chefs who cut their teeth at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Surrounded by an array of new tile and dark wood appointments sit trays of St. Honores, chocolate eclairs, croissants, fruit tarts and frangi pane — that is, if you get there before evening.
The baked goods not seized by customers do not linger on the shelves because they do not contain shortening or keep long.
“A lot of bakeries use shortening,” said co-owner Jean-Claude Perennou, explaining that Cannelle uses no trans fats in its food. “Butter has a three-hour shelf life. Especially in France, if you go to any bakery in the afternoon, there's very little there.”
Located at the site of the former Jay Dee Bakery at 75-59 31st Ave., Cannelle is not just a rehashed version of its predecessor. Co-owners Perennou and Samba Sabaratnam said they had to replace the old business' baking equipment, which had been there since the 1950s.
“Everything was in bad shape, from the oven to the mixers,” Perennou said.
Cannelle — “cinnamon” in French — opened Dec. 20, a little less than a year after the two bakers first set their sights on the property.
“We looked in Manhattan, that was our first choice,” Perennou said. “But it was very expensive and very small. There was no space for growth.”
Sabaratnam, who has lived in Queens since 1992, soon spotted the storefront next to the Waldbaum's supermarket and the partners quickly decided to set up shop.
“This neighborhood is changing,” Sabaratnam said. “We're getting more people coming, with different lifestyles.”
The response the men got when they first opened the doors surprised them.
“Right away people came,” said Perennou, who lives in Astoria. “I think they were curious.”
“We didn't do any advertising,” Sabaratnam said.
For Sabaratnam, who came to the United States in 1985 from Sri Lanka, a career in baking seemed to have been fated. With no background in the culinary arts, he started work at a French bakery in Manhattan to pay the bills.
“I didn't speak English, I didn't know anything,” he said.
Sabaratnam soon learned the trade and spent months training in France. In 1995, he joined the Waldorf-Astoria. He met Perennou there a year later when the Frenchman returned to the city from Cincinnati, Ohio, where he had been helping a friend at the five-star restaurant Maisonnette.
Perennou had trained at culinary school in his native France before dropping out and joining the military. A stint at sea led him to want to see the world. After taking baking lessons and moving to Paris, Perennou packed his bags and headed to New York City.
Now, with both men settled in Queens, their sights are set plainly on their home borough.
“Now that I'm in Queens, I'm not even thinking about Manhattan,” Perennou said, noting they get plenty of requests to open a second store in neighborhoods like Bayside or Forest Hills.
For more information, call 718-565-6200 or visit www.cannellepatisserie.com.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.