Alexandre and Cindy Steimer may be married, but even for them, the quarters are tight: 400 square feet—about the size of a small den or bedroom. That’s the work space for the Strasbourg-born chef and his wife at Le French Rooster. Although the bakery-cafe may be tiny, it’s been delivering outsized flavor to Burbank since opening last June.
Le French Rooster was an unlikely venture. Alex was living in France, running an Italian restaurant called Diavolino with his father when he visited Playa del Carmen in Mexico. That’s where he met Mexico City native Cindy, who was working in production. When she relocated to Burbank for business, Alex joined her. The couple initially catered on sets, and even though Alex dreams of opening a restaurant serving Alsatian specialties like tarte flambée and choucroute garnie, for his visa’s sake, he committed to a bakery.
They settled on the site of a former computer repair shop. Revamping the minuscule space was a construction and permitting slog, and even though Alex is French, he still had to learn how to make French food. By building the cafe from scratch, instead of going with a turnkey space, Alex had two years to test recipes at home. It’s risky to dive so deep into a concept with no prior experience, but pastries are in his blood. “My strength is that I know how it has to be,” he said.
Alex settled on a “mix of things that people know and things that people don’t know,” avoiding obvious pastries like butter, chocolate, and almond croissants.
Instead, they bake kouign amanns, buttery Brittany-style discs starring caramelized croissant dough. A classic version combines “butter, sugar and love,” and an atypical variation incorporates almond paste and toasted, shaved almonds. Alex also serves pillowy Strasbourg-style brioche buns coated with cinnamon streusel.
Located on West Olive Avenue, the cafe has benefited from its proximity to studios like Disney and Warner Bros., which provides a morning coffee rush and brisk lunch business.
Sandwiches are available after 11 a.m., the best of which utilize buttery brioche buns. Le pan bagnat is a classic combo of tuna salad with tomato, hard-boiled egg, black olives and mixed greens. Le Nordique features silky smoked salmon and dill.
Crepes hit the griddle at noon. Savory versions involve crisp, toasty buckwheat flour squares with display windows. For example, La Complete provides views of ham, melted Swiss cheese and a sunny-side up egg. Sweet crepes are thinner and springier and feature fillings such as Nutella or strawberry jam.
Although Alex is far from Strasbourg, as he watches his wife through Le French Rooster’s bustling kitchen pass, his visage is content. He’s clearly at home.