We all know that Las Vegas is home to people from all over the world. Often the most noticeable evidence of this are the city’s restaurants.
One of them is a French bakery and café. In its first few months of operation, it’s become a gathering place for Las Vegas’s French-speaking community.
There's kissing on both cheeks as Nadege enters Delices Gourmands. She moved to Las Vegas a little over a month ago with her son.
“I have so many friends that live here,” she says.
Some French-born people come here, to this bakery, to speak the language - and not only to have a taste of home, but like Nadege to feel at home with other French speakers.
“I think you need every time your people. You know?” Nadege says. “I want to meet American people, but for my son it’s important to meet French people, too.”
The bakery is in a strip mall that’s seen better days. It’s at Sahara Ave. and Valley View Blvd.- behind Terrible’s Auto Spa, between Gianna’s Pizza and Office Depot.
Once you walk through the door of the bakery, black-and-white turns to color. Only a few tables up front, a counter where you place your order, a huge open kitchen for everyone to see. It’s like you’re in someone’s home, or a secret speakeasy for foodies.
Levant Tulay has been coming to Delices Gourmands since it opened last February.
“I’m not French. I’m from Europe,” Tulay says. “I love French pastry. That’s why I’m here everyday.”
Tulay also likes the feel of the bakery.
“I like the walls and it’s very artsy and colorful. And actually you don’t need an atmosphere because they create it with the spirit of the French and the pastry, which I love. I feel like I’m in Europe.”
When it opened last February, the bakery focused on special orders for hotels and restaurants. The Trump Hotel and The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas on the Strip are clients. Then, customers started walking in the door.
Within view, from the front counter, is Yves Crivello
Yves is in the kitchen at a stove. He’s the owner, along with his wife, Catherine. Yves is stirring brownish liquid in a saucepan. It’s bubbling and hot. And it’s giving off a sweet smell.
“It’s a salted caramel,“ says Catherine Crivello. “This is something we use for making crepes. And we make caramel for the macaroons because we make macaroons. Every filling - everything we make at the bakery. So, for that it’s a lot of work.”
The native-born French population of Clark County, Nevada is actually very small. The U.S. Census Bureau estimate is a little more than 1,000 – in a county that has about 2 million.
Christelle Chamblas is executive director of the Academie Francophone De Las Vegas. She’s from Lyon, France. She’s been in Las Vegas for three years. Twice a month at the bakery her academy sponsors a breakfast for French-speakers, francophiles -for anyone who wants to be here.
“Francophone stands for French-speaking, because there are a lot of people from Quebec. French Canadians. So that we can also promote French Canadian culture and other French-speaking countries,” says Chamblas.
Despite the differences in her native land and her adopted home, Chamblas says she loves living in Southern Nevada.
“Yes, believe me or not, I love it. I like the heat. Yes, you can go to the Strip to see a show, a good restaurant. But you can also be quiet outside the Strip, like the countryside. So, I like that you can have fun, but also you can relax.”
Chamblas pointed out that some of the biggest shows on the Las Vegas Strip have French Canadian performers. Cirque du Soleil is based in Montreal.
"We have their children in our French school because there’s only American schools here," she said, "So, they go to school in English. So we have after school. We have summer camps so that’s when we get all the children from the French-speaking people in Las Vegas.”
And while the French people living here have embraced Southern Nevada and American culture, their roots are still French, which is why Chamblas said it is important for ex-pats to stay connected to each other.
"There’s a connection right away and you understand each other right away, and you understand each other just saying a word," she said, "We have references that we can’t have with someone from the U.S. - laughing for nothing."
One of the biggest difference for Chamblas between American and French culture is food and how it is eaten.
"Having good food, good wines, it’s just something very different than in the U.S. – okay, I sit two minutes, I eat. Or you go eat in your car," she said, "It’s just a fast life whereas in France, eating is a ceremony even if you’re just with your husband and wife, it’s a ceremony. You have to have an appetizer, and you know, and cheese, and dessert. It’s just the way we like to eat. Even though we don’t eat a lot, it just takes time.”
It just takes time. At Delices Gourmands the core values are: natural ingredients, everything fresh, never frozen.
“Real bread. It’s with flour, yeast, water, and salt. That’s it,” says Catherine Crivello. “It doesn’t need nothing else. And it’s for that we make daily.”
Crivello said she will pick up a loaf of bread at the grocery store just to check it out.
“We say: wow (laughs). And when we read the ingredients in the bread on the back, we say: oh my gosh. It’s really terrible to see what’s – the list is so long.”
The bakery is about to enter a third phase of its evolution – catering. Catherine and Yves have hired a pastry chef who’s soon moving here from France to help with that.
Christelle Chamblas, executive director, Academie Francophone De Las Vegas; Yves and Catherine Crivello, co-owners of Delices Gourmands, Las Vegas