“When she realized that their initial plan to build and maintain a restaurant called Anchor was not working out, my mother said to my father, ‘I will dig into my roots,’” explained Michael Clervois. With this simple sentence, the concept of the Le Bon Pain bakery, a renowned Haitian-inspired bakery in Jamaica, Queens, was born.
Le Bon Pain is a Haitian-owned and family-run bakery known by many for its deliciously flaky crusted Haitian patties and its soft and warm made-to-order Haitian bread. The storefront boasts floor-to-ceiling glass and is lined by a long counter full of treats on its right—Mini-fridges house natural juices along with hot sauces on the left. One wouldn’t even know that this unassuming-looking bakery currently has 537 reviews on Google Business and a raving 4.5-star rating! That is until you push open the door and are greeted with the most pleasant grandma-made it-warm-doughy-bread-fresh-out-of-the-oven scent. Those who grew up in Haiti will automatically be transported back home upon entering this shop.
"Le Bon Pain" A History on its Own
For the past 33 years, Le Bon Pain has served up the best bread and chicken patties known to anyone on this side of town. How did a small bakery, such as this one, receive such huge accolades and become the longest-standing Haitian restaurant in the neighborhood?
Le Bon Pain has been open since 1988 and has gone through many transformations over the years! We recently caught up with Michael Clervois, the current manager and owner’s son, who gave us the scoop on the history and vision for this treasured community bakery.
“My grandfather was a baker in the North of Haiti…the whole recipe and knowledge of baking started with my grandfather,” he said. His mother used to work at various bakeries in the past before finally deciding to open up a family shop. “You can’t just open a business; you have to own it and operate it,” she stated. So she quit her full-time job and took on the enterprise full time.
The Importance of Legacy
Over the years, while working in California for a corporate company, Clervois noticed his mother would often work long hours. She would begin at 6:00 am on her own, just to keep the store running. “I’m looking at a long-standing Black business in my neighborhood…It’s a sacrifice you have to make to serve the community…That energy transferred to me.” Clervois understood the importance of not selling and cashing out on the business but instead carrying the legacy forward. “I came back for Thanksgiving and never left. We have to continue what my mother started so that every generation can see a strong, lasting Black Business.” And this extraordinary family did just that.
Le Bon Pain has been feeding and impacting the Jamaica, Queens community for generations now! Many adult customers today still remember when they were children entering Le Bon Pain with their parents for a chicken patty or two when they were young. Le Bon Pain bakes daily snacks, caters for large and small events, and distributes their renowned bread to 10 local supermarkets. They are one of the only shops where one can find “Akasan,” a cornflower drink usually consumed alongside pieces of bread as a staple Haitian breakfast.
The Best Haitian Bakery in the U.S.
Their most famous menu items include their chicken patty, crispy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside, as well as their soft and delicious Haitian bread. Their bread is so famous that people buy it in large quantities and freeze it in order to eat it over time. When reading their online reviews, many customers have boasted about driving from out of state just to get their hands on the bakery’s prized patties; and they believe it is worth it. Google reviewer, Wes, claims, “Let’s start off by asking a question. How far should you travel to try out these patties? Up to 50 miles. That’s right, I said it. If you are within a 40-50 mile radius, you should make the trip to try these Haitian patties. Why do you ask? This place sets the benchmark for quality Haitian patties.”
Most importantly, the proprietors of Le Bon Pain pride themselves on having provided daily services to the community’s essential workers at a time when many businesses had to shut down. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Le Bon Pain closed down for only four days in order to do deep cleaning of the shop and then pushed forward. Deemed an essential company by the NYC Health Department, this bakery opened its doors at 5:00 am to ensure they provided breakfast and lunches for essential workers such as nurses and correctional officers. All of them have to get to work super early in the morning. Thanks to their savings, they were able to keep the store open even when business significantly declined due to the shutdowns. Their impact on the lives of these hard-working citizens during such a scary time has been immeasurable.
L'Union Fait La Force & The Future
We asked Clervois what’s next for Le Bon Pain. He shared, “Next step is to take our patties to the supermarket.” This idea came after being inspired by a friend’s Golden Crust frozen patty process. “You can’t find anything Haitian in the stores.” So, when he finds local distributors of Haitian products, Clervois readily supports them by sharing his family store as a place for them to promote themselves and share some of their products. He not only wants to take Le Bon Pain’s products and his grandfather’s recipes to the world, but he also sees the value in helping others who also want to advance the culture. “Everyone gets to win. L’union fait la force,” he says, the national slogan on the Haitian flag meaning “Unity breeds strength.”
It is precisely this type of mindset that allows Le Bon Pain to keep thriving, as it has for so many years. A mixture of deliciousness, family, professionalism, consistency, and determination. Michael’s brother and sister also help run and manage the family business. They hire staff members who have deep roots in Haiti and understand precisely the practices that will get their products textured and tasting as they do.
Despite the setbacks that many Haitian businesses often experience, such as a lack of stellar customer service, Michael believes that mixing cultural values and practices is essential to his family business’ success. He says you have to use the American value of professionalism, in addition to the Haitian recipes and cooking practices, to maintain a lasting and thriving business such as Le Bon Pain. He encourages the staff as well as his siblings to all take on that mindset.
Le Bon Pain has a proud history and even more epic eats! Whether you live in the area or are just here for a visit, be sure to stop by and try their chicken patties, bread, akasan, sweets, and more! We look forward to seeing how the family takes the Le Bon Pain bakery to the next level.