Many Jacksonians are unaware that a tiny little corner of Europe lies tucked away inside Fondren Corner, ready to transport customers to a different world. Three years ago this month, sisters Cristina Lazzari and Alejandra Sprouts opened La Brioche, fulfilling a family dream of running a successful patisserie.
That word, patisserie, is everywhere: on the traditional hanging sign outside, embossed across the wall behind the counter, printed on crinkling cellophane bags stuffed with exotically-flavored cookies. It catches the eye immediately and informs the viewer that this is not going to be an American experience, but a distinctly European one.
“We’re very international [as a family],” co-owner Alejandra Sprouts explains. “Patrick is from Europe and [my sister and I are] from Argentina, and we were all always traveling all over the place.”
She’s not exaggerating about their travels; both sisters ranged far and wide after leaving Argentina—exploring extensively throughout Europe and South America— before Sprouts landed in Chicago, IL and Lazzari in Miami, Fl. Sprouts used her time in Chicago to complete L’Art de la Patisserie program at the French Pastry School, while her sister eventually moved to her husband’s homeland of Sweden to complete her horticultural studies. And then, in one of those seemingly common but still strange twists of fate that bring so many of us to this city, Lazzari and her husband and children landed in Jackson, Mississippi.
Aside from travel, Sprouts says her family has also always been very passionate about food, especially pastry. But for her, that passion went even deeper. “When it comes to pastry I can never get enough.,” she confesses. “Even if I’m doing it all day, I can still go home and still think about it.”
Opening a pastry shop had been a long-term goal and shared family dream. When Lazzari found herself settling in to life in Jackson and Sprouts was wrapping up her formal education, it finally seemed like the right time.
“At first I was a little afraid to see how people were going to take it, would it be too different, too much?” Sprouts recalls. “But no! We started off at the farmers’ market, and we did very well. People kept asking ‘where’s your store, where’s your store?’ So we finally opened a store!”
Even then, though, the sisters didn’t lose their wanderlust. The tiny shop is decorated with black and white photographs showing typical café scenes from around the world—Argentina, Italy, Sweden—most of which were taken by family members. A large world map is painted across one wall, fresh lavender blossoms and sunflowers adorn each tabletop, and cheerful French café music creates the perfect soundtrack.
“We wanted to infuse a bit of all the places that we’ve been and combine it into one,” Sprouts says, remembering the early days of planning and dreaming about opening a shop. “We wanted to give that to the people that come in. We wanted to offer you that sort of experience, make you feel like maybe you’re in a different place, just so you can leave Jackson for just a moment.”
With “patisserie” in the name and French music over the speakers, one might be lead to expect a purely French pastry experience. The sisters’ sense of global adventure and love for travel leads them to infuse the same international flair into the kitchen that they do in the décor.
“I went to a French pastry school, so the base of it all is French even though I’m not French,” Sprouts concedes. “I mean, if you want a good pastry you’re going to get it in France. But I grew up in Miami as well, so there’s a little bit of Cuban, a little bit of Argentinian, a little bit of Swedish and Italian. The whole idea behind it was to infuse a little bit of the world into the pastries.”
Sprouts’ passionate and bubbly personality, while evident when she talks about travel, is truly on full display when she launches into the topic of pastry. “To me, I guess, it’s edible art. That’s how I see it. When I was first trying to figure out what to do with my life, I used to draw and paint and thought, ‘I would like to do something related to art,’ and then one day it hit me! I thought, ‘Well, if I love sweets…’” she laughs.
Whether discussing the science behind her recipes—“I find it fascinating how many things you can do with egg whites!”—or the creativity of the process, it’s clear that she hasn’t lost any of her love for her work. “From having an idea, creating it, and then just watching people enjoy it,” she explains. “It’s like, they’re smiling because of something I made, so that makes me smile!”
Sprouts and Lazzari have clearly succeeded in infusing their family character—their shared passions for travel and pastry, their sense of fun, their attention to detail— into every detail of the La Brioche experience. But that doesn’t mean that non-family members can’t find a home there as well.
“There’s a lot of room for people to grow with us,” Sprouts says. “We like to hire people who are really going to be committed. Because we work together as a family, and we can grow together as a family, not just us as owners but them as well.”
So what, exactly, are they working on? La Brioche has been open for 3 full years now, leading one to wonder if its success has prompted the sisters to start thinking about future plans.
“There’s some ideas in the works,” Sprouts says. “We’re working on our catering menu, hoping to expand our catering a little more. We hope to maybe open another location.” There’s a twinkle in her eye as she adds, “I don’t know how much I should tell you yet!”
As for Sprouts herself?
“For me personally, this is not my last stop; that’s for sure,” Sprouts says with conviction. “As a pastry chef, I still have a lot more room to grow, a lot more to learn. But I’m always going to be connected to [La Brioche] because I’m part of it.”