Husband and wife team Jean-Pierre and Lynne Marquet have been serving mouth-watering croissants and delicate pastries since Smith Street was a frontier. The lunch sandwiches and salads are consistently delicious and fresh.
When Lynne and Jean-Pierre Marquet started selling his buttery, flaky croissants on Smith Street, between Degraw and Douglass in 1989, there were no trendy restaurants in Brooklyn. The street – back then not considered part of Carroll Gardens, but instead an uneasy border to Boerum Hill — was lined with bars, delis, bodegas, private social clubs and casual Latino eateries. There was a big shoe store, Johnnie’s Bootery.
The Marquets had a guard dog, Colette, a Malamute/German Shephard mix, to protect the till. The petite Lynne had to get nasty with drug addicts and panhandlers. A rumor started that the Carroll Gardens couple was selling cocaine. That’s how unusual it was for a French bakery to open on Smith Street.
It was quite an environment for the Southerner with a Masters in Poetry and the Parisian chef: Lynne grew up in Alabama, and Jean-Pierre in 1983 immigrated from Paris, where he began his pastry career at the age of 14, cracking eggs at Lenôtre, a famous and fine maker of pastries, chocolates and cakes. He apprenticed at two upscale dessert makers and graduated from L’Ecole Jean Ferrandi, widely regarded as the top pastry school in France. In New York, he was head chef at Le Bistrot de Maxim’s, on Madison Ave.
The chef wanted his own place.
“He believed we could do it, and I supported him fully,” Lynne says.
It was rough going for a few months until the New York Times declared Jean-Pierre’s croissants the best in New York City.
Coverage continued in The New Yorker, the New York Daily News and elsewhere. A steady migration cut a path to the beautiful little store with elaborate window displays, showcasing Jean-Pierre’s cakes, pastries, fruit tarts, Madeleines and holiday treats. It was the only place around that sold specialty French desserts, such as Bûche de Noël, a decorative Christmas log cake, and customers came from Manhattan to taste them.
“They’d come in wide eyed, like they had just crossed the Sahara desert,” Lynne said of her customers back then. “We were the only game in town for French pastry in Brooklyn. We got a lot of press, the New Yorker would do a special Christmas issue every year.”
Twenty-two years later, Lynne and Jean-Pierre continue to bring a little piece of Paris to South Brooklyn at their Marquet-Patisserie, at Court and Warren. Jean-Pierre uses high-grade butter to make mouth-watering croissants, pastries and unusually delicate cakes. The chef’s Fraisier, a classic French cake consisting of two layers of vanilla sponge cake filled with fresh strawberries, a mix of pastry crème and butter crème and finished with a very thin layer of marzipan, is a masterpiece of strawberry shortcake, encased in an elegant green frosting.
Their window displays ought to win an award for romantic charm.
Jean-Pierre’s stunning Fraisier cake takes strawberry shortcake to new heights.
In the early years, Marquet sold wholesale to Dean & Deluca, and launched a frozen line with Balducci’s. Lynne says Jean-Pierre invented the apple twist: croissant dough wrapped around apple filling and almond creme.
In 2003, Lynne and Jean-Pierre moved Marquet from Smith Street to Court Street, because they felt the retail would be better. People were “angry” that the store on Smith closed, but it’s been good for business, Lynne said.
And now, the couple is branching out. They opened a French bistro in Williamsburg, Le Barricou, four years ago, a popular brunch spot that also features a fireplace in the dining room for winter meals, and they are opening a bar at Bedford and South 1st, called Maison Premier (First House). They would have liked to open in South Brooklyn but the rents are “outrageous,” Lynne says.
Lynn works the counter, piled with delicacies.
Lynne and Jean-Pierre came to Carroll Gardens like many others have, fleeing Manhattan rents and hustle-bustle for our chill European-esque village. They moved here in 1987, renting a floor of a brownstone with big windows on 2nd Place between Court and Clinton for $800. They loved it here. Their apartment was palatial compared to their former place on 3rd Ave. and 12th St. in Manhattan.
A lot has changed since then—croissants are now made all over town and the French presence in Carroll Gardens seems ubiquitous. Patois opened on Smith Street in 1997, ushering in a Renaissance of shops and eateries that continues today.
It can be rough going for a tiny bakery that makes everything the Parisian way.
“We’re old now, not new,” says Lynne. “But we make a quality product at a good price. People don’t come here to be seen. But they can come to get the best coffee and croissant anywhere.”
To read a more in-depth history of the changes on Smith Street, check out Trudy Whitman’s piece in The Brooklyn Eagle.
221 Court St. at Warren