There’s more to going from a banker to a baker than losing that “n.” That’s particularly the case for Pierre Henry, who, with his wife, Nelly Henry, opened Bree’osh Café on Coast Village Road last October, the culmination of a circuitous route from Paris to Montecito.
It began in 2012, when Pierre left his customer-relationship management position with a bank. “I wanted to do what I wanted,” said Pierre, who then enrolled at the prestigious Ferrandi culinary school and worked at a Michelin-starred restaurant. “I wanted to work with my hands.”
The Henrys originally intended to open their own establishment in South America, as Nelly went to school in Mexico and loved it. “We were in Latin America for six months, going through Chile, Peru, and Colombia, but it didn’t happen,” he said. “The real estate market is crazy — you would pay a really high rent plus an 11 percent increase a year.”
Friends invited them to Santa Barbara in March 2015 — they’d only been to the States once during a brief New York trip before. They were smitten and also saw a niche to fill. “We want to open a boulangerie,” he explained. “Renaud is more a pastry maker than a baker, and a pâtisserie and a boulangerie are a big difference in France.” They opted to make brioche, in part because the café’s small kitchen didn’t have room for large ovens, although they started baking off-site at a commercial kitchen in early April.
As for the name, the Henrys wondered whether brioche was really understood in America. “In France, brioche is not a bread; brioche is brioche,” said Pierre, who’s had to explain the difference repeatedly. “We found a good way to communicate was to use the phonetic approach, and voilà!” Still, some don’t like the name, and others are confused, said Nelly, explaining, “Customers come in and think my name is Bree.”
But no matter the spelling, Bree’osh’s brioche is delicious dough that can get either sweet or savory treatments, from sweet almond to Kalamata olive/basil to seasonal lemon. The plain ones make a tasty base for sandwiches like croque monsieurs or the Cambridge House smoked salmon with goat cheese, capers, and red onion. As Pierre explained, “There is no need to add lots of things to have something very tasty.”
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m., 1150 Coast Village Road, Montecito; (805) 570-9151; breeosh.com