INSPIRED by their Parisian-American home filled with love and pastries, one New York City couple opened a bakery and marketed it on social media.
L'Appartement 4F owners Gautier and Ashley Coiffard soon had a booming business with a viral menu item — but the French aren't eating it up as much as everyone else.
In 2021, the bakery blew up on TikTok after Ashley shared Gautier's unique creation: croissant cereal.
Now, influencers and celebrities like Paul Rudd frequent the brick-and-mortar spot in Brooklyn Heights for delectable French classics with an American twist.
But their social media presence hasn't been well-received by all in France.
After L'Appartement 4F was featured on a French television show, the bakers were slammed by critics who dramatically accused them of "destroying French gastronomy."
"It just made me laugh," Gautier admitted in an exclusive interview with The U.S. Sun.
Ashley and Gautier met in 2016 at a bar on the Upper East Side: a true New York love story.
Gautier was a software engineer, and Ashley was a school nurse. He was French, and she was American.
It wasn't until the two were married and settled in Greenpoint did their love affair turn into the perfect recipe for their dream career.
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Gautier was born and raised in the French Alps, but neither he nor his family had any real baking experience.
Yet the 35-year-old found he could make everything from soft and flakey croissants to freshly baked sourdough bread.
He admitted: "I was missing bread from France. So, I really wanted to try and make it myself. I tried a few recipes, tweaked them a bit, and Ashley liked it."
Ashley, the ambitious idea generator, pushed her husband to start selling his sweet and savory goods.
"When he started baking, I was really proud of him. I was his taste tester, and I thought he should start selling because I thought other people would really like what he was making," Ashley said.
But Gautier hesitated to turn an activity he enjoyed into an around-the-clock job that meant waking up early and rushing orders.
"It took a lot of convincing. I would say took like three or four months just from me suggesting it to us like actually creating a menu, and letting other people buy it. I finally convinced him."
Thus, L'Appartement 4F was created, And at first, it was based out of apartment 4F — their home.
The two were exhilarated by the number of orders they had coming in.
Ashley was documenting their success by running all social media accounts and handling the customers.
Gautier was creating, baking 1,500 cookies and coming up with new recipes.
But their routine worked, and the ongoing buzz meant they had to transform their place into a full-blown bakery with the bedroom as the "freezer."
Finally, in 2022, the Coiffards moved the business out and opened up a legitimate pâtisserie.
"It's kind of really funny, because I would say, as an American, I like to say yes to a lot of things. And I'm kind of like a people pleaser," Ashley said.
"So when we were getting orders, I was like, saying yes, and I was so excited. Then, I would come to Gautier with all these orders and he would get a little overwhelmed."
While the 33-year-old felt pressured to overwork, her husband was more than comfortable saying "no" and enjoying life outside the business.
He pushed late start times and early closes.
Ashley admitted: "I feel like I was kind of bringing that like American, you know, working 24/7 not really eating a lunch, just trying to like, do as much as I can."
"And he slowed me down and was like: 'Let's enjoy this process.'" She noted that this mindset was "very French of him."
Now, the overachiever and the relaxer even each other out enough to create the ideal work-life balance.
After their initial business launch, Ashley came across a TikTok video of someone making mini pancake cereal.
The innovative thinker loved the concept but thought Gautier should try making it with mini croissants.
"Without really realizing how much work that would mean for me," Gautier added.
Their rendition of the famous cereal started as a prize at a fundraiser they held to raise money for their new brick-and-mortar shop and then ended up being way more popular than they ever thought.
People sent orders for the cereal before Gautier had enough to go around.
Even customers in Strausberg, Germany heard about the mini pastry rendition made by the couple in America.
"It became totally viral," Ashley said.
But not all of France loved the idea, and Gautier's American twist on classic French gourmet delights was criticized on TV.
Gautier admitted: "The title was 'Destroying French gastronomy.' Something like that.
"And a lot of people were saying: 'Oh, it's disgusting.' French people have been complaining about it."
"It's just making me laugh, though. At the end of the day, we have a lot of French people coming into the store."
He noted that hearing the complaints from people back home "doesn't really mean anything."
Local customers and loyal ones around the globe have understood, appreciated, and experienced the love that's baked into every L'Appartement 4F treat.
And their Brooklyn bakery is a testament to the at-home experience they had while running the business from their apartment.
L’Appartement 4F review
Gautier and Ashley were kind enough to send me some sweets to taste: a ham and cheese croissant, cereal, a loaf of bread, and two bottles of wine.
I could tell there was love in the air and the kitchen when I took a bite of their ham and cheese croissant — the best I've ever had, and I just returned from Paris.
But I was the most curious about their viral star, the croissant cereal —which was not what I was expecting.
The hints of cinnamon bounced on my tongue as I munched and swallowed the mini pastries with some almond milk.
I thought the croissants would be soft and get soggy in the milk. But soggy they were not. Every tiny pastry was crunchy and crisp.
"We started the bakery because we love hosting and having our friends in our little space and cooking and feeding and giving them good wine," Ashley said.
"If I think the bread is being made by like, angry, upset, or anxious people, I feel like that will translate. So it's a lot of laughing in our bakery."
For Ashley and Gautier, running the bakery together is no different than typical married life.
They may have a few tiffs here and there, but their business relationship works as well as their personal one.
For Mother's Day, L'Appartement 4F partnered with Louis Jadot Wine, America's number-one French-selling wine company, to craft tips for elevating a classic holiday brunch — the Parisian way.
The pairing of the two companies is as beautifully matched as a good red and some cheese.
"It's that tie-in of the French American love story," Ashley proclaimed.
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