The Culture of la Madeleine
At the heart of the la Madeleine experience is the ability to retreat from the world outside and, for a few moments, enjoy life and food and friends at your own pace.
A Casual French Experience
Live life to the fullest. Live it the way you choose to. This is at the heart of the la Madeleine experience. This is liberté. And, as one of our founders was fond of saying, liberty is something you keep only if you give it to others. It’s more than just selling food. Here, our guests can retreat from the world outside and, for a few moments, enjoy life at a more lingering pace with a cup of coffee, a French pastry, or a hearty meal. Here, in the middle of a busy life, is a little French experience they can call their own. They can sit quietly and read a book. Or they can participate in one of the highest forms of French culture: the art of conversation.
We encourage our guests to choose their own experience (fireplace, wine room, patio) and establish their own small rituals. In that way we create here in America a mood and an authenticity that reflects the finest traditions of France.
Curiosity is what drives people to explore parts of the world other than their own. More often than not, this hunger for discovery and new experiences is responsible for bringing guests to la Madeleine for the first time. They’re looking for a dining experience that’s both relaxing and satisfying, one that takes them away from the stress of everyday life and becomes an immersive experience in and of itself. That is what la Madeleine is all about. Here, guests find an experience that’s comfortable and familiar, yet at the same time uniquely French. They can indulge their curiosity about the world and experience French cooking in an atmosphere that represents the best of what casual French dining is all about. It’s no wonder that we have some of the most loyal, worldly and interesting guests of any restaurant.
“In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection.” – Curnonsky
A Letter from Our Founder, Patrick Leon Esquerré
I think la Madeleine is unique because our guests created it. I decided they would be my architects and designers. In 1983 I sat on the sidewalk in front of where the first la Madeleine bakery would be and listened to my future guests tell me what they expected from an authentic country French bakery. They said they pictured a hearth-stone oven. We had a 25-ton wood-burning oven. They asked about wooden beams. We have wooden beams. They said make it fresh. But of course, it was the only way we were used to making anything.
And, of course, they soon wanted more than just a bakery. What about French onion soup? And a caesar salad? (Caesar salad isn’t French, but that is a story for another time!) I did the only thing I could think to do. I called my mother in France and asked for help. She flew here overnight. She knew only one English phrase, “good, good.” and believe me, her cooking is great. And it worked.
Our guests also wanted their freedom just like at home, to pick out what they wanted to eat, sit where they wanted to sit, get up and get their refills as needed without waiting for anyone. We agreed, and together invented the “la Madeleine way.” My job was to stay true to the authenticity of a country French bakery and make a home for our guests who created their own neighborhood bakery.
La Madeleine would not be what it is without our wonderful associates. We call it our big happy family. And they make our guests feel the same way. Special! Thanks to them, when there is a la Madeleine in the neighborhood, there is a “home away from home” for our guests. My mother, my nanny, my aunts, and my grandmothers taught me to never compromise on quality. So every part of la Madeleine is authentic and unique, with its own identity. As we continue to find new homes, here in our wonderful adopted country, we will stick with the principles that brought us to this point: stay true to our roots (when it comes to our cooking, French roots are not that bad after all!) and constantly listen to our guests. I can never thank them enough.
Un gran merci, A Bientot,
Patrick Esquerré, Founder la Madeleine