For Francophiles and baked good fans in New York, L’Appartement 4F is simply not to be missed. Founded by France-born Gautier Coiffard and his American wife, Ashley, this pandemic-born business has quickly risen to local fame – and the proof is in the pastry. Get to know the face behind the Brooklyn Heights-based counter in our latest edition of Expat Diaries.
Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from?
I am from the mountains, the city of Grenoble. I grew up skiing and hiking until I moved to Paris for college, to study software engineering. I actually never worked in France – my first job was in the US.
What made you choose New York?
I first came to the US for an internship in Buffalo at a small local TV station. While I was staying there in 2011, I took a trip to visit NYC and really connected with the city. When my internship ended and I had to return to France, I decided I wasn't done with the US and started looking for a job in the city. It took a few months, but I eventually was hired by the French company Dalet at the beginning of 2012. I moved to Manhattan and stayed at the same company for 10 years.
How did you first become interested in baking?
When I was a kid, we had a cherry tree in our backyard and so clafoutis (a cherry cake/flan/tart) became my specialty. I understand that purists will argue that you need to bake it with the cherry unpitted, but to me, that destroys the eating experience. Remove those pits! I was never a huge baker, but I always love trying new things in the kitchen.
Tell us a bit about L'Appartement 4F. What was the inspiration behind it and how did you come up with the concept?
At the end of 2019, I started experimenting with sourdough and croissant lamination. I took it as a challenge to learn how to bake croissants and baguettes, but it was definitely a hobby. When my wife Ashley tried it, she insisted that we should sell it. We asked friends and colleagues [their thoughts], then had our first big sale. That was March 13th, 2020 – so as soon as this hobby-business started, we had to stop it.
When the first COVID wave started to calm down (around June of that year), we put up a menu online and right away, strangers started supporting us. Out of nowhere, we had customers from all over Brooklyn and we started delivering warm croissants and baguettes to them. Less than a year later, we made the decision to move to an actual storefront.
With the help of the community, it took us about a year to renovate the space and get it ready for baking. We eventually opened our doors in May 2022, and since then, there has been a line every single morning.
What are your specialties at L'Appartement 4F?
We try to keep the menu classic and French, but with an American twist. We have regular croissants, but our best seller is Le Framboise, an almond croissant with a raspberry chocolate ganache from French chocolatier Valrhona.
Who are some of your biggest culinary inspirations?
I'm not an expert in the food scene, therefore wouldn't be able to name drop famous chefs. I would say my grandmother Nanon (on my Dad's side) who loved cooking. She was also the first person I ever tried to make croissants for, as well as my grandfather Pilly (on my Mom's side) who loved "la bonne bouffe" (good food).
What makes L'Appartement 4F different from other French bakeries in NYC?
I think what separates L' Appartement 4F from other bakeries is the synergy between Ashley, who brings her American culture, and my French way of thinking to create a very strong product and experience that is curated to our customers, who are American with a love for the French lifestyle.
What are some lessons you learned while creating L'Appartement 4F?
We realized that everyone we talked to has different advice/opinions based on their own experience and there is not one perfect way to open a restaurant.
What were some hardships you endured while launching the project?
Renovating the place and navigating the NYC bureaucracy was definitely not something we anticipated to be that tedious and time consuming. We learned a lot [from that experience] and we are ready for location #2!
What is it like being a French expat in Brooklyn? What do you miss most about home?
Being thousands of miles from my family and missing reunions can be hard at times. But I love the community aspect of NYC that I really only discovered through the bakery. It truly makes it the best city in the world.
What are your favorite things to bake at L'Appartement 4F?
I love experimenting in the kitchen, and the product I'm the most proud of is Le Framboise, a double-baked almond croissant filled with a raspberry chocolate ganache imported from France. The chocolatier, Valrhona, is based just one hour from my hometown.
Any advice for those looking to move to the USA and start a business?
Do not be afraid to disappoint your parents! Switching careers in this country is very rewarding.
Visit L’Appartement 4F in Brooklyn Heights
115 Montague St, Brooklyn, NY 11201.