I start out on rue des Martyrs, a narrow market street in the 9th arrondissement that climbs its way steeply up the hill to the heart of Montmartre. It is 7 a.m., and the many food shops lining the street are still shuttered. But the doors to Maison Landemaine have just opened, and the buttery scent of freshly baked croissants invites me in.
One could not be blamed for thinking this a simple neighborhood bakery, but upon closer inspection it’s impossible not to notice the skilled touch on the wheels of sourdough, the appetizing powers of the cacao-spiked loaves, and the tumbling stack of golden croissants by the register.
The namesake owner is Rodolphe Landemaine, a remarkably talented “bakepreneur” who, at just 38 years old, runs a tiny empire of eleven shops in Paris. Consistency is key in such a business, and he knows that croissants are extremely susceptible to human variations: give the same recipe, ingredients, and training to five bakers and you’ll get five completely different croissants. So Landemaine has trained a single team of hyper-specialized bakers who prepare a whopping 6,000 croissants each day to deliver to his Paris boutiques, where they’ll be baked fresh in time for the opening.
The young man at the register lays my croissant across a thin sheet of paper, closes it up, and ties the corners together in one expert, swirling motion. I grab it and go, for the shop is small and already there’s a line behind me. Standing on the sidewalk, I unsheath the croissant. Still warm from the oven, its shell shatters when I bite in and the crumb melts on my tongue with a buttery sigh.