How I left France and my cozy $6,000 Per month job for the American Dream

Author: Chef Anthony At Pastreez

In this personal blog post, I will detail the story behind my online bakery store Pastreez, and how I left France to California to live the American dream!

Hi guys! I’m Anthony, the founder of Pastreez, a French bakery where you can buy macarons online.

If someone would have told me back in 2016, I would have not believed it. I left everything in France back then. I left an amazing “career” and path to “success”.

I came to the United States with my wife and two pieces of luggage, in February 2017. It sounds cliché, but it’s true.

Here is how it all began…

Smooth Sailing

I feel light and free. Free to think, to travel, free to be me. That’s how I felt on August 31st, 2016, my last day at EDF (Electricité de France, the big French Electricity Company), in Saint-Denis de la Réunion.

I remember back then, I was working at this big French company. Life was good. I was getting paid $6,000 per month and had just been promoted to engineer in chief, in charge of 3 teams and 45 persons throughout the island.

EDF even paid top dollars to transfer my wife and me from Martinique to La Réunion. Paid house. Paid travels. 15 months bonus salary over 4 years.

But something was not right. To be fair though, I always thought I would do my “own business” at some point. I just did not know when and how.

I always told myself this position in La Réunion will be the last one before entrepreneurship. Four more years, then I quit!

But I lasted only one year. I was lying to my true self for too long, so I decided to quit in April 2016. Yay!

I wish it would be that easy. But the reality is way more stressful and intense. No one ever leaves EDF. Understand, very good health benefits, a job position guaranteed until retirement, and much more.

The human resources director was not even aware of what to do. So I had to talk and explain myself, for months, to every single person in the company.

Even to my parents! Understand, in France, the culture is not to take risks. Once you do 5 years in engineering school and have a great job, French education pushes students to embrace a corporate career.

Even in society itself, it is very (very) hard to be an entrepreneur in France. So many barriers.

Yet, I had to tell my parents that not only was I leaving my “safety” job, but I was going to leave the country for the United States. Ouch!

Most of all, I had to convince my wife to jump on this journey with me.

After all the talk, and the negotiations with EDF, long story short, my wife and I left La Réunion island in September 2016 for Paris.

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Okay. Now What?

Filled up with motivation and courage when I landed in Paris, I was ready for anything.

But wait. Ready for what? I did not know at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to build an eCommerce store because I love digital marketing.

Leaving my “boring” job, I should focus only on what I love. That’s the idea.

But I know that you can’t succeed alone. You can’t have all the skills for yourself. You can’t be an expert in everything.

Naturally, I asked my wife what she loved to do. She said baking. And I knew that for a fact!

Since I met her in 2010, I could tell she was skilled and most of all passionate about baking French pastries.

Voilà! Let’s combine our skills to build something. But Pastreez wasn’t there yet.

First, we need to do a quick market study to know what area would be worth digging into. And where!

While my wife was perfecting her baking skills at Le Cordon Bleu Paris Pastry School, I was checking on the pastries market worldwide.

I knew my ultimate dream was California. My wife and I spent our honeymoon there in 2013.

But at the time, I thought it was too complicated to go to the United States. And that was a psychological barrier.

The problem is that society is full of people that discourage you. “You need at least $150,000 to be able to come to the US”; “It’s not your language you won’t succeed”; “You know nothing about the market”.

So much that at first, we were going to… Chile!

Why? Because they were very welcoming to French entrepreneurs. It was that simple!

But on a Sunday evening in Paris, I was watching a famous TV show called “Capital”. It was about French people that succeeded in the US…

No way! We will go to California and see how it goes.

California Love

We are ready to board our flight to California. Two pieces of luggage are on the plane’s hold. All our life at this point.

We landed in Los Angeles on a rainy evening. The Airbnb host’s name is Lane. It turns out she was a very nice lady who helped us a lot later on.

In Los Angeles, my idea was simple. Discover the area and see if there is a market for famous French pastries. At that time, I didn’t even know macarons were such a big deal abroad!

So we started meeting people on an app called MeetUp. We would prepare pastries (dacquoise, macarons, Tarte Tatin, etc.) and would bring them for free at these meetings.

We only required some feedback. And macarons were always a hit. There we go: we would build Pastreez with macarons!

While building the foundations of Pastreez, I noticed there were no blogs that answered common questions about macarons. Questions like what is a macaron? Are macarons gluten free? You name it.

With our French expertise and experience, I was able to build a strong blog around macarons, answering all these questions to help our audience.

From our small Airbnb room and shared bathroom, we were dedicated to making it work. The next step in our journey would be to test our product on a small scale.

I thought local farmers’ markets were the most efficient to do that! So we attended three of them: Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, and Malibu.

I wanted to present our idea and product to real customers. You got my pattern, right? Test, get feedback, apply and repeat!

Needless to say that people were in love with our handcrafted macarons. What I wanted the most was feedback on macaron flavors.

We learned that salted caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and Pistachio were the most popular ones.

I learned something else while interacting with people at the markets. Someone named Kevin mentioned it would be cool to have on our website a way to build your own macaron set, with only someone’s favorite flavors.

That’s how I created our website with the option to customize your own set online. That feature is to this date the most important of our website!

From this point, an interesting phase started: the growing phase.

From Markets to Shipping in the Entire US

It’s getting serious now. We’re growing!

Now that we have: A viable idea, customers that are ready to purchase, the perfect French macaron recipe, flavors that match the American taste, we need to enter the next phase: Shipping macarons in the entire United States.

And that’s a huge step. Selling one-to-one is very different from shipping to your door.

In fact, that was our biggest challenge in this journey.

The first step is always to look at competitors. We were not the first to ship macarons. How are my competitors doing?

Let’s order from them! At that point, I ordered from the 3 companies that were shipping macarons in 2017.

Upon delivery, I analyzed each package and noticed similarities, especially with the insulated pouch with bubble cushions.

We then improved their solution to our products, and shipped to friends across the nation for some tests.

It worked! We’re now ready to ship throughout the country.

More Volume. More Problems.

We’re now in November 2017. At first, our macaron recipe was reliable, but not to the point where we could produce hundreds a day. So we had to practice.

It was time to rent a commercial kitchen, with bigger ovens and room. New problems started.

As you might know, making macarons is very tricky. Changing temperature, humidity, oven, can mess up your recipe.

Even after years practicing in Paris, days at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, when the time comes to make more volume there are always tricky points.

So we had to adapt once again. After hours in the kitchen to improve our recipe, tweaking the oven, we were able to have a robust macaron recipe.

And just in time! Christmas 2017 was our very first holiday rush.

But at some point, we became a steady business customers all year long, not only for Christmas.

I found that macarons were very famous as wedding favors, baby showers, baskets and gift ideas, valentine’s day macarons, mother’s day, etc.

We were very excited, because this meant we would have volume every season of the year.

The next step for us was to get our own facility. Renting the commercial kitchen was getting out of hand, since we were here basically everyday.

The Quest to the Perfect Place.

What’s a perfect location? For us, it was far away from the city.

We don’t need to have an expensive storefront in Beverly Hills. We only needed a commercial kitchen, with room to stock our packaging.

We also needed close access to a carrier such as UPS, Fedex and USPS. In fact, it can be anywhere in the US!

We landed in the High Desert of Southern California, in a city called Phelan. What we love about the place: it is a rural area, no traffic, clear sky, not too far from Los Angeles and major cities, acres of land at a decent price. Our dream!

An important update to our business model was to add the “pick up” option. It is very important to us to participate and be part of the local community.

We’re the only French bakery in Phelan, and it’s priceless to help locals discover our world through our macarons.

Quality Overall. Staying “Small”.

After several years in business, if you’re looking for macarons near me on Google, you’ll see Pastreez reaches top 3 in the search results.

It means anyone searching for macaron delivery in the US will most likely visit our website. We’re so proud!

A good reason for that is our brand identity: we value quality over quantity. That’s why Google shows our website as “relevant” for this type of search.

We really aim to stay “small” so we can keep doing what we love: Handcrafting French pastries.

At some point, if you grow too fast and too big, you’ll always lose quality. Because you can’t make these volumes, and train people fast enough.

Staying small means that we still get to interact ourselves with our customers. I do customer service on a daily basis.

That’s important! Because we have a direct connection with what makes customers happy, and what can be improved.

For example, we release new flavors on a weekly / monthly basis. The fact that I interact directly with customers will help understand their taste, and see if the new flavor is a hit or miss.

Staying small also means we get to hand make the macarons daily. I will be able to do quality tests, ensuring our product is up to our standards.

We also get to test new colors, flavors, and match the trends of the market. As an example, the Turquoise blue macarons were born after seeing that this color was a huge hit in baby showers back in 2020.

Macarons? Check. What’s Next?

If you are looking to buy macarons online, Pastreez will always be the place where you can find authenticity.

I was writing about staying small, but staying authentic is as important.

My vision of authenticity is to always keep quality and tradition in mind, even when we innovate.

Our French macaron recipe is the one we learned and practiced for years at Le Cordon Bleu Paris.

Everything we sell is handcrafted in our kitchen. The macarons always ship fresh, never frozen.

So what’s next? Our vision is to develop a variety of pastries with a French accent. Last year we released Crêpes-to-go, and 2023 it’s the Chocolate Chip Cookies!

We are giving the cookie delivery a French twist with delicate flavors, such as Macadamia nuts and Pecan. Even heart shaped cookies for Valentine’s day this year!

If you ever come to the area, please stop by! We’re always happy to share. A bientôt!

Author: Chef Anthony At Pastreez

Chef Anthony At Pastreez

Have you ever asked yourself, where to find macarons near me? Anthony is the French chef at Pastreez, an online bakery where you can buy macarons online. It ships fresh to your door in the entire United States!

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