‘Sugar High’ local chefs reach new heights

Local French chef’s Jean-Marc and Lionel hold a pan of freshly baked hot butter croissants at Little France’s Bakery and Bistro in Mission Viejo. Autumn Stallings | Lariat

Sugar artist father and son duo from Netflix competition takes residence at ‘Little France’s Bakery and Bistro’ in Mission Viejo

French chefs Lionel and Jean-Marc provide the French culinary experience at Little France’s Bakery and Bistro, a stone throw from Saddleback College.

The sandwiches blend soft breads, exclusive high-quality deli meats or vegetables and the always crunchy spring mix. It’s like being transported to France, minus the ticket fees.

Let’s not forget the showstopper of this establishment, the handmade sugar artistry masterfully created by their chefs, the French pastries. All of the pastries and breads are hand-made from scratch every morning.

Fruit tart made by French chefs, Jean-Marc and Lionel at Little France’s Bakery and Bistro Autumn Stallings| LARIAT

My personal favorite is the sugar jeweled fruit tart. The variety of fresh berries and sweet custard gives this desert a wonderful balance of sugar and tartness. Each berry is drizzled with a custom-made glaze that only enhances the natural flavor of the fruits. All of this sits inside a small hard-crust crunchy shell that can only be described as homemade.

You will find yourself justifying the additional calories and turning into that little brat, Oliver Twist. Asking for “more please” while tossing the friendly cashier your credit card. I found myself constantly saying, “It’s OK to indulge. It has fruit in it. How bad can it be?”

You have been forewarned as these are no ordinary French chefs. They are Netflix competition “Sugar High” finalists and highly experienced in the art of French baking. Jean-Marc, the father in the duo, has participated in nearly 25 competitions worldwide and is a true master of the sugar art.

Tuna melt sandwich on butter croissant at Little France’s Bakery and Bistro Autumn Stallings| LARIAT

The tuna melt sandwich is my second favorite item to order, next to their unique french pastries.  

I must admit, I was enamored with skepticism when I first noticed it on their daily specials board. Tuna fish and a hot sandwich seems like a disastrous combination. I was equally skeptical about putting a hot tuna sandwich on a greasy croissant. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

The tuna was still relatively cold, yet the cheese was perfectly melted. It has the most balanced tuna to mayo ratio that I myself cannot even accomplish on my own. This was not your mama’s tuna melt sandwich.

The croissant was perfectly moist on the inside which melted into the tuna with each bite while the outer layers remained crispy and never seemed to come apart in your hands.

 It wasn’t drenched in butter at all. I could not feel the increasing cholesterol levels as you often do with grocery store croissants.

I was most impressed with the tomato quality in this sandwich as I still do not know how to pick the perfect tomato. It was delicately sweet   not mushy   and added what was missing to the sandwich.  It was at this point that I realized, we are dealing with true professionals here.

As I patiently waited for my order, I noticed the tuna melt sandwich sold out during their lunch rush. It appears word is getting out about my newly found obsession.

The downside is the lack of space which I discussed with the owner. He showed me the newly built renovations next door which he was still in the process of building.

The new owner continued to describe all the precious details of the renovation with the same pride as a new parent gloating about their child using the potty for the first time.

I watched as his face gleamed with enthusiasm speaking about the 150-year-old woodgrain that aligned the bistro doors. The pride in ownership was clear in both their careful design and high integrity products.  

According to the owner, the expected completion date for the expansion will be in about one month. 

In the meantime, they were busy preparing to cater an Oscar party thrown by legendary rock icon Sir Elton John on March 27.

As a college student whose only source of income is financial aid, it’s safe to assume a trip to France is not in the budget right now.  Fortunately, France has moved across the street from Saddleback College.

To paraphrase “In Living Color’s” sketch “Men in Films,” I give this bistro two snaps and twist around the world.