Future’s Looking Rosy for Owners of Rose Street Patisserie
John Kraus and Elizabeth Rose are creating the modern version of a patissierie where the food is old world quality and the atmosphere makes you want to put down your cell phone and communicate.
Everything’s coming up Roses for the founder of Patisserie 46. First there was the opening of a second location, a Linden Hills bakery called Rose Street Patisserie, and now two new varieties of Roses, a St. Paul Rose Street and a kiosk with rose-centric wallpaper at the long-awaited Keg & Case Market on West 7th in St. Paul.
All future patisseries (and it appears there will be more) will carry the Rose Street moniker, says John Kraus who owns the bakeries with his wife Elizabeth Rose. “46 is a standalone,” he says of the original. “It’s specific to that neighborhood.”
The St. Paul location at the corner of Selby and Snelling—in a former Starbucks that moved down the block in order to add a drive-thru—is just what the neighborhood ordered, according to Rose, the company’s CEO.
The consumers dictated the neighborhood, as well as the patisserie crossing the river. “We had guests that came all the way from St. Paul to (Patisserie) 46,” Rose says. And they not only kept asking when they were coming to St. Paul, but “started sending us emails (with pictures) of lease signs,” she says, smiling.
A fortuitous connection led to their first St. Paul location, and in mid-September Rose Street opened to lines out the door. Guests not only came in for the pastries, bread and ice cream, they came baring gifts: bottles of rosé and vases of roses and thank you cards.
Rose Street is already seeing the same guests, sometimes multiple times during the day. “It’s a place where people can connect (with other humans),” she points out. “You won’t see everyone on their phones.” True to their name, there’s a European feel to the bakeries, and the cases are lined with visual art, where the vivid pastries almost look too good to eat—almost.
Kraus met his wife and business partner when she was having a cup of coffee with a friend at Patisserie 46. She was in luxury goods marketing, and “he wanted to talk about brand expansion.”
He was an easy sell for the marketing—“He said, ‘I just want to make a great cookie,’ you don’t often run into that real humbleness,” she says—which blossomed into romance. Kraus admits he’s always had an affinity for roses, from the royal rose garden in London where he tasted his first heavenly brioche to the first sugar flower he made for a cake, and now his wife’s last name. They’re also across the street from a building named Rose. (So I’m not feeling sorry about all the puns about roses at the beginning of the article.)
There’s another reason Kraus’s pastries have such a following. He’s the first American-born chef to be inducted into Relais Desserts, a 100-member organization representing the cream of the crop of French pastry chefs, who generously share old-world secrets, as well as best practices. The process started, when “They invited me to come to a seminar,” he says. “It was so frightening when you realize the magnitude of who is in the room.”
Jonathan Dendauw, chef Boulanger, wanted to work where there’s beautiful products. The Rose Street logo that Elizabeth Rose designed shows up as a faint flour embellishment on the round loaves of bread.
Potential members have to have two sponsors, fill out an application in French and pass a bakery inspection, plus present at a meeting—in French—accompanied by a cake. And even though the process was daunting—he not only had to create the perfect cake—he had to learn French, he decided, “I need this in my life.”
Seated in the busy Snelling Avenue location, the two reminisce about the visit from the head of admissions to the fateful trip to make his presentation.
At 2 a.m., the night before the Minneapolis visit, where “he’s going to give us a physical,” Kraus says he remembers thinking, the croissants weren’t proofing correctly. “We had to be A+ and we had five hours.”
Five hours later: “He walks in (wearing) a long duster, picks up a croissant, smells, weighing it in his hand and then breaks it open. His eyes roll back. He loved every aspect,” Kraus details in commentator mode. “He was just in New York and nothing exists there like this.”
He had to wait three months to receive the coveted letter inviting him to present.
“It’s the top tier of your industry saying you got it right,” he explains. “I framed the letter and then we got to work.”
He spent five months making and remaking his cake, along with a white chocolate sculpture for it to rest on. The cake would be made at the destination, so he had two coolers of ingredients, plus a 5’ by 4’ crate delicately packed to hold the sculpture.
At the ticket counter, they were told they couldn’t ship the crate.
“I said, this is his life work,” Rose interjects.
The head of cargo for Delta was called, and after hearing their story, said they could load it, but it first had to be x-rayed on its side.
Kraus shakes his head. “I had two coolers (with) bags of white powder and no problem with that, but a chocolate sculpture?”
However, “Delta,” he enthuses, “was amazing.” When they arrived they picked up all the bags, forgetting one, which later joined them with a little less drama than in Minneapolis. It was then a seven-hour trek, to the kitchen where the cake was to be prepared. While the dry ingredients could fly with him, he had to use local butter, which was different, and adjust the recipe for the altitude and humidity.
He presented and then two days later, he found out the results. “They rip off your jacket and you get a new one with their name,” he says.
That may be his greatest honor, but it’s not his only one. In 2015, his team won a bronze medal in the Coupe de Monde, a world pastry competition.
When one opens multiple locations, the question is always can you sustain excellence when the main talent can’t touch every loaf or cookie?
The answer appears to be yes, in this case. There isn’t a lot of turnover, and pastry chefs and bakers want to work with him. Students who work summers and return to school in the fall, return on their next summer break. “John makes them bring their report cards,” Rose says, laughing. “Education is the only thing they can’t take away,” he replies.
And a classically training French baker attracts in kind. Jonathan Dendauw came from France to Chicago to work, but although there were plenty of bakeries, none were the kind he was seeking. He now handles all the breads in the Linden Hills store. He enjoys working for the couple, he says, because they give liberty to managers to be creative to come up with new products. “They’re not looking at you from behind your back,” he explains.
They are looking to add a production bakery in the future. Currently the Keg and Case location sells only confections, since Five Watts Coffee, also a tenant, carries Rose Street’s pastries, and another sells bread, along with meat and cheeses.
To date the expansions have been self-funded. And if your neighborhood wants a Rose Street, perhaps now is the time to start sending Kraus and Rose emails containing commercial real estate listings that look promising.