Les Madeleines announces its closure • Salt Lake Magazine

For the past 19 years, Les Madeleines chef and owner Romina Rasmussen has infused Salt Lake City with an authentic European flavor. Inspired by her global travels and transcontinental flavors, the cakes, made entirely from scratch, sprang from world-sized imaginations. On Monday, the beloved bakery announced it is closing due to staff shortages, supply issues and other difficulties.

In an Instagram post, Romina writes: “I’m incredibly grateful for all the support from guests, vendors, friends and family over the years, but it’s time for me personally to change direction.” The shop still intends to celebrate its 19th anniversary on December 15 and offer one last holiday season of kouign amann, Bûche de Noël, panettone and other favorite pastries. His last official day will be December 30.

To celebrate Romina for all she’s accomplished over the years, including accolades as Salt Lake Magazine’s Pastry Chef of the Year in 2007, we look back on how she got her start in the city and her philosophy on baking.


A well-traveled palette

After training at the French Culinary Institute in New York, NY, Chef Romina honed her skills working at Mesa Grill in New York City and Mandarin Oriental Miami’s fine-dining restaurant, Azul, before returning to her hometown. Salt Lake City, and opening Les Madeleines in 2003. After living and traveling the world, Chef Romina found it easy to return to her hometown. She jokes that her training technique could have been learned in French, but her love of cooking goes back home. “No one else in the family baked. I was always making a mess in the kitchen.” Now she can do it for a living.

It may be home, but Chef Romina’s world travels can be savored in every bite of her delicacies. Her palate is a passport of flavors that regularly takes her on culinary adventures to try new things. “I was in Orvieto, Italy, and I tried a cookie made with chocolate, hazelnuts, and pistachios. When I got home I tried to get as close to the original flavor profile as possible because I wanted to keep eating it.”

in Dordogne, France, the chef Romina located a man who made poppy flower flavored ice cream. “We drove 20 miles to find this supposed ice cream shop, which turned out to be a 7-Eleven-like store that just sold ice cream,” she says. “Then we had to drive all over to find his garden and taste his flavors.”

Innovative Baked Goods

Closing Les Madeleines
kouing aman

Chef Romina is a bit of an avant-garde in pastry. The piece de résistance of Les Madeleines, as she likes to call it, is the kouing love (named Patisserie of the Year 2012 by food and wine). “I read about it. It looked interesting. So I made it.” If you’ve never tried it, it’s a rich shortbread from Brittany, France, with layers of dough and caramelized sugar on the outside. If you’ve eaten a kouing aman from Les Madeleines, you’ve tasted history. Les Madeleines was the first bakery west of the Mississippi to offer the Breton pastry.

When chef Romina first opened her cafeteria, no one locally used or even heard of Meyer lemons (a hybrid between lemons and oranges). “I had to fight tooth and nail to get them when I started and now you can buy them at Costco.” She jokes that in the beginning, when the bakery ran out of lemons, she was afraid there would be bakery uprisings. Maybe it’s a joke, but she always keeps the coffee stocked.

Les Madeleines was also one of the first bakeries to offer a variety of signature flavors of gourmet cupcakes and French macarons (or “buttons”) in Utah. The macarons became so popular that the store no longer makes cupcakes.

Les Madeleines Philosophy of Flavor

At Les Madeleines, everything is made from scratch. “We do not use mixes or prepared ingredients. We make seven kinds of bread. And we make our own toffee bits for our shortbread.”

If you settle for unimaginative sweets, Les Madeleines may not be for you. “You won’t find a single chocolate chip cookie,” she says. Though inventive and adventurous, Chef Romina wouldn’t consider herself a mad baking scientist because baking is still a science to her, but because of her culinary curiosity, she likes to experiment with flavor profiles. “I am not wild and crazy. I did more extreme flavors at first, but this market didn’t quite accept them. So I have to find a balance between the craziness and what people will buy.”

That’s why chef Romina used ever-popular cupcakes to introduce some of the less-familiar flavors. “When we opened, nobody knew what a passion fruit was. Since we opened, the Salt Lakers have become more familiar with flavors than ever before.” Some of their craziest combinations include cardamom and orange, passion fruit and coconut, and bourbon pecan—flavors often used in other cuisines but rarely seen in American pastry shops. It even combines lychee, pistachio, raspberry, and rosewater. “At first it can be unpleasant, but once you try it, you love it.”

If you’re craving something tastier, Les Madeleines also serves breakfast and lunch daily. The soup of the day and pommes frites (french fries for most) are hard to resist. So is Chef Romina’s mac and cheese.

praise

In 2007, she was named Best Pastry Chef by salt lake magazine and both she and Les Madeleines continue to garner acclaim and recognition from regional and national media, including: The Food Network’s Road Tasted with the Neelys and The Best Thing I Ever Ate, oprah magazine, Food and Wine, Better Homes and Gardens Y sunset magazine.

Order online for local and national shipping.
216 East 500 South, SLC
801-355-2294


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