It was a busy time because my wife Primjai had given birth to our daughter, Eline, only one week before we signed the lease. Our four-year-old son, Taiki, is in preschool. They both are familiar faces around the establishment. People who enter my bakery for the first time and see the products filling my display cases are impressed and sometimes astonished by the shapes, colors, and flavors that appeal to their senses on so many levels. They are also surprisedby how many product choices we feature in such a relatively small space.
Doré is the French word for “golden” — a color especially appropriate to my croissants that are already earning a reputation in the area among croissant aficionados. One of my customers recently said that he judges bakeries on the quality of the croissants and on that basis has made Doré his bakery of choice. A couple weeks ago, another customer declared one of our chocolate confections to be “The most delicious dessert I’ve ever had.” I take custom orders of all kinds. I create unique cakes for any occasion and make them from special flour, called genoise, that is imported from France. Cakes made from genoise have a particular elastic texture that is achieved by a process that gives volume to the cake by suspending air rather than chemical leavening during its production. I can make any kind of cake people might prefer. Customers particularly seem to love my strawberry cakes. Our doors are open from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except Monday. We offer a lunch menu with a variety of salads, sandwiches, panini, and pesto. We serve meat that is “halal,” ensuring that the animal was slain in a humane fashion and with prayers being offered. We offer a full line of flavored coffees including espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, as well as a variety of blended drinks. Doré is a perfect venue for snacks and light meals.
I am ethnic Chinese but grew up in Paris. I decided when I was a teenager that I wanted to be a baker. I loved the diversity of products you could find in a bakery window, ranging from a loaf of fresh bread with an aroma that could make your mouth water to some chocolate or fruit concoction that could delight both vision and taste. I became passionate about the profession when I discovered that I could play with flour and do whatever I wanted to with it. I found my real purpose in life when I realized that I am an artist and that flour is my medium. I learned the trade at the Banette School of Bakery. Following graduation, I worked for a while in Paris at my brother’s bakery.
A dozen years ago I took a trip that changed my life. I was on vacation in San Francisco and attended a birthday celebration for a friend at a San Francisco donut shop. One of the people at the party was a lovely young Thai woman named Primjai who, like me, was on an American holiday. Something immediately seemed to happen between us. I got her contact information with the intention of furthering my relationship with her.
There were a lot of reasons why we shouldn’t have gotten together. She lived in Thailand; I lived in Paris. She spoke Thai; I spoke French. She was Buddhist; I had no particular religion. But geography, religion, and culture are insignificant barriers to two people who are really in love. Primjai and I pursued our relationship through phone calls and by my taking no fewer than ten trips to Thailand. We decided to marry and to begin life together in San Francisco. We actually had two wedding ceremonies — a small civil wedding in San Francisco and a much larger wedding in Thailand. Even though the Thai culture and language were completely foreign to me, the event turned out to be a Big Fat Thai Wedding kind of an affair. My mother and cousins attended; we all had a great time.
I began life in San Francisco by working as manager at a series of eating establishments including a donut shop, a Thai Restaurant, Chevys, Panda Express, and Noah’s Bagels. I learned a lot about running a business and made a lot of mistakes, which turned out to be valuable learning experiences of the “I’m not going to do that again,” variety. For a year, I owned my own donut shop, called Donut World, on Sixth and Market in The City. The location, which should have been wonderful, was horrible. After struggling with the constant presence of criminal elements, I shut the business down.
During all that time, Primjai and I were looking for a likely place to open our own bakery business. Last year we found Frosted Custom Cakes, which occupied the location of our current Doré. The owner was ready to make a change, but we weren’t going to become business owners until we became residents. By the time we completed the purchase of a Shadow Lakes home, Frosted had transferred the lease to Sweet Bella. Six months later Sweet Bella’s Bakery was ready to transfer the lease to us.
Doré is located off of Brentwood Boulevard, sharing a parking lot with Lumpy’s Express. We don’t get a lot of foot-traffic and you have to look for us, so more than one person has referred to Doré as a hidden gem. Business started out slow; we didn’t get very many customers during our first weeks. However, business is now at satisfying levels because of our growing reputation through word of mouth and reviews on Yelp and in Facebook. It might be a little difficult for a customer to find us for the first time, but then it becomes even more difficult for many of them to not continue coming back. Doré is the only place in the area where you can get genuine French pastry. Customers are beginning to come from as far away as Vallejo just to get “the real thing.”