Getting to Know: La Fromagerie
Nestled in the heart of San Francisco, La Fromagerie stands as a testament to the power of authenticity and innovation in the culinary world. With its roots tracing back over 11 years, this beloved establishment has grown from a modest cheese shop to a thriving culinary hub that celebrates the essence of French cuisine.
Co-founded by Aymeric Joigner and Ruben Donze, La Fromagerie was born from a desire to bring genuine French flavors to the daily lives of San Francisco's residents. "The idea behind La Fromagerie was basically to try and bring some French authenticity to the daily business by trying to provide very authentic old French recipes, simple recipes that people could test without too much transformations with our products," Aymeric explains.
For the Love of Cheese
The journey of La Fromagerie has been a remarkable one, shaped by the bond between co-founders Aymeric and Ruben. Their partnership began unexpectedly when Aymeric, fresh out of business school, was introduced to Ruben's vision for La Fromagerie. "Ruben was a long time business owner in San Francisco... and we spent a lot of time talking about the idea of La Fromagerie, an idea that he was working on for a couple of months already," Aymeric recalls. Focusing primarily on cheese and cold cuts, La Fromagerie aimed to let the quality of their products shine through without excessive transformation. Their journey began in 2012 with a small location in the Dogpatch neighborhood. "We started like that, trying to sell cheese by the cut and trying to sell sandwiches and gourmet salads. It went pretty well within the first location in the Dogpatch that we opened in 2012," says Aymeric. The foundation was laid with a single cheese case, a piece of marble, and a passion for preserving the true essence of French culinary traditions. This commitment to authenticity quickly resonated with patrons, as they flocked to experience the flavors of classic French recipes.
La Fromagerie's success did not stop at its retail offerings. Over the years, the establishment embarked on a journey of innovation and expansion. Catering became a significant part of their repertoire, with tech companies driving a surge in demand. "We started to do catering with [CaterCow], with other caterers in the city. And after three or four years, we saw the catering booming exponentially because mostly of tech companies," Aymeric explains.
The innovation did not end there. La Fromagerie delved into the world of breakfast, adding a new layer to their culinary offerings. Their unwavering commitment propelled them to open three locations, with two in the downtown area and another in the Dogpatch, which served as their commissary kitchen. However, the unforeseen challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to temporarily close two of their downtown locations.During the pandemic, La Fromagerie demonstrated resilience and adaptability. They shifted their focus to residential catering, delivering gift boxes and introducing their products to customers' homes. "Obviously the business was not as strong as before, but since people were still aware of us being around when everything reopened, we could just start to make business again," Aymeric reflects. This period was a true testament to the power of their brand and the loyalty they had built over the years. As restrictions eased, they came back stronger than ever, opening a new location on Chestnut Street in the Marina district.
"The only thing you think about is, ‘great, now we are back on track.’ So that was the motto for the entire COVID period," Aymeric says. With the city slowly emerging from the grip of the pandemic, La Fromagerie saw old and new customers alike return. The restaurant's authenticity and innovative twists on classic favorites continued to attract a diverse clientele. "We see potential coming back... we see that more and more people are coming back. It is a slow increase, but it is a sure increase," Aymeric notes.
Reaping the Rewards of Resilience & Innovation
For Aymeric, one of the most rewarding aspects of La Fromagerie has been the continuous process of innovation. "I think the best experience I have had was [embracing] the idea that we could constantly innovate, innovate within a product or within processes, just a matter of innovation and seeing the result of your work," he shares.
Whether it's introducing new twists on classic recipes, experimenting with catering offerings, or expanding into new neighborhoods, he finds joy in witnessing the results of starting something from scratch.
While the concept of innovation might seem contrary to classic French cuisine, Aymeric emphasizes that innovation at La Fromagerie is all about finding clever twists on time-honored favorites. Their goal is to breathe new life into dishes that people love but might be growing tired of. The innovation is rooted in respect for tradition and a dedication to preserving authentic flavors.
When asked about his favorite dish, Aymeric's has a quick answer. "I would say, if I have to pick one any day, the Italian sandwich... I'm really deeply a bread lover, so I would always go for Italian sandwich, big time," he enthuses.
However, he also reveals a deeper connection to a traditional French dish—beef bourguignon. "If I can pick whatever food in the world, I would definitely go for beef bourguignon," he adds. This emblematic dish, when paired with a fine pinot noir, encapsulates the essence of French cuisine for him.
As La Fromagerie navigates the future, Aymeric and his team are excited about new horizons. They're exploring the idea of establishing their concept in residential areas beyond the downtown core, envisioning their authentic offerings as a staple in neighborhoods across San Francisco. Diversification is a key strategy, and they are keen on expanding their catering offerings while staying true to their core values.
"The idea behind La Fromagerie was basically to try and bring some French authenticity to the daily business by trying to provide very authentic old French recipes, simple recipes that people could test without too much transformations with our products," Aymeric reflects. Throughout their journey, La Fromagerie has been a beacon of authenticity, resilience, and innovation. Aymeric and Ruben's commitment to preserving the essence of French flavors while adapting to modern demands has solidified their place in the culinary landscape of San Francisco. As the city continues to recover and evolve, La Fromagerie stands as a testament to the enduring power of genuine cuisine and the bonds it forges between people and communities.