24 years of experience

A bakery without croissants is like a pub with no beer; we think you would agree it doesn’t make any sense. The heart and soul of every bakery is sculpted around the quality and love with which basic ingredients are carefully transformed into a final product. Mohammed is someone who, day in and out, empower the soul of Le Pain Quotidien. For 24 years, he and his team have been striving to deliver the highest quality croissant to our restaurants, so that you – as a customer – only have to sit down, order and enjoy. Because quality has a taste.

Mohammed was one of the very first bakers & pastry chefs that Alain Coumont housed in his atelier in Brussels in 1996. Luc, our atelier manager, saw potential in the introvert but hardworking Mohammed and didn’t hesitate for a second to take him along on the new journey when constructing the new atelier in Ninove. He was therefore rewarded for his professionalism and he became the one in charge of the production of all the viennoiserie.

C'est ma passion

When we ask Mohammed some questions as he tours* layer after layer – about his time at LPQ and how he finds the motivation to move around pounds and pounds of butter and dough every day – he smiles shyly and says he just likes to do it. “C’est ma passion.”. Colleagues therefore describe Mohammed as duty-conscious, honest and very accurate in everything that he does. “He is a man of few words, but all the more of action. A wonderful person to have on our team and someone we can always count on. Someone with passion and fire for his profession and that for 24 years”, says Luc.

What Mohammed gladly explains in great detail is how he makes his croissants every day. Day 1 he starts preparing the dough. This dough is entirely made from organic raw materials including 100% pure organic butter, cane sugar, agave syrup and sourdough. This dough needs a night’s rest at a very low temperature so that it is ready to be toured* after 24 hours. On day 2, each block of dough, weighing about 10.5kg, is layered with 3kg of organic butter, until you finally arrive at 16 divine layers of happiness (or butter, it’s how you look at it of course.) This dough is cut into triangles and rolled up to the recognizable croissant shape. As a final stage, each croissant is freshly baked every morning in the restaurant. Haven’t you noticed that smell yet? Well, that’s Mohammed’s croissants coming out of the oven and waiting for you every morning at your favorite Le Pain Quotidien restaurant.

Our atelier is very honored to have someone as Mohammed on the team. He is a good guy on which everyone can build and a true force of nature. He is responsible for the smile on your face while enjoying a freshly baked organic croissant. And we too gladly admit that - even after 30 years – we enjoy our croissants on a daily basis… Quality control, am I right?!

* Touring or laminating the dough means that you roll the initially thicker dough flat to a certain thickness, then put a slice of butter on it, fold it and roll it flat again. This process is repeated until there are a total of 16 layers of butter.

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Simplicity

Alain Coumont was born into a family of cooks. His grandparents had a restaurant, his father was a chef and his aunt Simone was a talented pâtissier who baked tarts every Saturday for the whole family to devour on Sunday. When he was 6 years old, he started to read from the two cookbooks that were on the shelve at home. He taught himself to cook by reading recipes and hints from famous chefs. His first creations were chocolate mousse, cream puffs and eclairs. Little did he know…

In 1990, Alain opened the first Le Pain Quotidien in Belgium at Rue Antoine Dansaert. The core value which Alain holds dear to his heart – and still does today – is simplicity. We often hear him say: “Guys, let’s just keep it simple!”.

The very first menu he wrote had 2 breakfast suggestions, 8 tartines, 4 salads and 3 desserts. That’s it, nothing more and nothing less. Featuring all seasonal and local ingredients. Some of these dishes can still be found on our menu today: the LPQ breakfast, the chocolate bombe and the tartine boeuf basilic.

Alain left Belgium with his crazy and at that time revolutionary idea of organic sourdough and went to NY where he opened his first Le Pain Quotidien restaurant in the Big Apple. His international dream became a reality. Even though we were opening more and more restaurants, we never forgot what Alain’s initial idea was: simple, wholesome and sustainable food, to share with friends or family around our communal table or at home around your kitchen table.

People may have forgotten or may not have ever known, but LPQ was a trendsetter avant-la-lettre. It was never permitted to smoke in our restaurants, long before it become the standard. The first vegetarian dish came on the menu in 1992, we banned all sodas in 2005 and in 2011 we introduced our first vegan dish. Now 30 years later our menu combines flavors, with respect for the environment and nutrient intakes. It comes alive around fundamental principles: respect for the seasons, animal welfare, close collaboration with local suppliers & the fight against food waste.”  – Alain Coumont

Our new menu design is a representation of the simplicity that we care so deeply about. We have chosen to work with fewer ingredients and less manipulations, so we can guarantee the high quality of each and every single one of them. We go for local and organic whenever possible and offer a selection of seasonal vegan dishes.

Let’s just keep it simple – AC

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Hello, Pumpkin! Pack More Pumpkin (& Seeds) Into Your Fall

Maybe you and your family spent a recent weekend at a pumpkin patch, or perhaps canned pumpkin caught your eye on your last trip to the supermarket. Either way, pumpkins are synonymous with fall. With Halloween right around the corner, we’re embracing pumpkin more than ever to get in the spirit!

It turns out pumpkins—and their seeds—pack a ton of nutritional value. To learn why you shouldn’t let this super food go to waste after carving up your jack-o-lanterns—and for recipe inspiration—read on!

What’s in a Pumpkin? The Benefits 

Halloween may be associated with many sugar-packed treats, but pumpkins actually offer up tons of health benefits! Their high fiber content slows digestion and satiates hunger, promoting weight loss. And, canned pumpkin is 90% water, making it a low calorie ingredient that keeps you hydrated.

Additionally, pumpkin’s beta-carotene content counters sun damage to skin and lowers risk for prostate and lung cancer. The body converts beta-carotene to Vitamin A, which is essential for eye health. With the help of antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, pumpkin prevents cataracts and macular degeneration! Vitamin A also works with pumpkin’s Vitamin C content to build your immune system. Finally, research showing that pumpkin reduces blood glucose levels, improves glucose tolerance and increases insulin production indicates that pumpkin helps counter diabetes.

Getting Creative in the Kitchen

While a whole pumpkin may seem like an intimidating ingredient, there are many ways to incorporate pumpkin into your cooking! After removing the seeds and pulp, cut the pumpkin flesh into chunks and bake or boil until tender. Try using the chunks as a substitute to squash, serving as a veggie side dish or tossing into pasta!

For a finer texture, peel the skin, then mash or puree the baked chunks. Mix with maple syrup, butter, and sprinkle in your favorite fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice and finish with salt or pepper to taste; then, serve in place of mashed sweet potatoes! To achieve an even smoother texture—perhaps for pumpkin pie filling, custard or soup—press the pumpkin puree through a sieve. Of course, organic canned pumpkin provides a shortcut to achieving this texture, while still offering the same health benefits.

Hang on to the seeds too—they also pack major nutritional punch! A plant based omega 3 source, pumpkin seeds are rich in healthy fats, antioxidants and fibers that promote heart and liver health. Their high magnesium content means better muscles and bones and more regular, balanced systems, while their zinc content boosts immunity, promotes healthy cell growth and division, acts as a powerful antioxidant and stabilizes hormones and the endocrine system. Like pumpkin, pumpkin seeds improve insulin regulation, making them a great snack for diabetics.

As if those properties don’t have you convinced, consider that pumpkin seeds are a source of “the sleep hormone” tryptophan, making them the perfect treat for the kids to end a busy night of trick-or-treating with in lieu of sugary candy!

Before roasting pumpkin seeds, boil them for 10 minutes in salt water. Drain and towel the seeds dry, and spread onto a baking sheet. For savory seeds, drizzle with organic extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; for a sweet snack, drizzle melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Roast at 325°F for 10 minutes, and enjoy!

Of course, pumpkin isn’t the only orange food you can whip up in honor of Halloween—we also love oranges, carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes!

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Raw Foods

In the winter, it can be all too tempting to indulge in warm, heavy comfort foods. But sometimes, we all need a bit of detox with a day or two of vegan or raw meals. While going 100% raw is truly a mission (it’s nearly impossible and a bit cold!), incorporating some raw food into your diet can really benefit your health. Luckily, doing so can be quite simple.

If you’re interested in stepping into the raw food world, I suggest trying to make about 30-40% of your meals in a week raw. Why? Eating fresh, raw ingredients is important for our “inner composting,” or digestion. When you eat a raw food, you are actually eating living, enzyme-rich food.

You see, cooking vegetables destroys important microorganisms that are found in fresh vegetables, including enzymes that aid in digestion. With cooked food, your body needs to work hard to process dinner. That’s where raw food enzymes come in handy.

My favorite raw recipes are simple and require minimal preparation. Try slicing root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, fennel and turnips very thinly on a Japanese mandoline. Marinate them lightly with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt or soy sauce. The result is a delicious and flavorful meal with a satisfying crispness.

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Celebrate Earth Day Every Day

Why celebrate Earth Day just once a year? At Le Pain Quotidien, we believe that every day should be Earth Day!

In honor of the official holiday, we’re sharing our tips on living a greener lifestyle today – and every day. Luckily for you, we are here to help you every step of the way.

  1. Choose organic. With over 150 organic ingredients on our menu and in our pantry, it’s easy!
  2. Reduce plastic bag waste by bringing a reusable bag when you shop. Sustainable, spacious and functional, our Jute Tote is perfect for the job.
  3. Save your coffee grounds and give your garden a boost. Did you know that coffee grounds are great for repelling garden pests and are high in nitrogen, making them an ideal natural fertilizer? Enjoy our Organic Peruvian coffee at home, then make your garden happy!
  4. Try eating a more plant-based diet. It’s better for you, and for the planet. Look out for the 100% Botanical carrot symbol on our menu, which makes finding vegan items easy.
  5. Save energy by switching your incandescent light bulbs to CFL or LED. We’ve been making the switch in our stores and have reduced lighting energy usage by 80%!
  6. Compost at home to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills. Check out our Composting Tips article to learn about composting your kitchen scraps and how to get started!

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Buying Organic on a Budget

If you already buy organic or you’re thinking about transitioning to an organic diet, you’re probably aware that buying organic can be a strain on your wallet. Making good choices for your health doesn’t have to mean making poor choices for your finances. With some smart shopping using these strategies, you can be mindful of your budget and still steer clear of harmful pesticides and chemicals.

  • Buy in bulk. By joining a co-op or discount wholesale club, you can buy organic food in bulk and save big. If you’re worried about not being able to finish your stash at its freshest, you can always freeze your fruits and vegetables. Make sure to whip out your calculator when making bulk buying decisions, though. Sometimes that 5 lb. bag of chocolate chips isn’t actually less expensive than the more manageable size at your conventional supermarket. Do the math! Hint: Generally for grains, lentils, beans and nuts, volume sizes are more economical.
  • Order online. It may seem counterintuitive to order your food online, but especially for snacks, cereals, cleaning products, and even beauty products, why not? Prices are often competitive and online stores carry a wide array of organic products to select from. Try Mambo Sprouts or Amazon, for example. Our online Pantry is also full of tasty organic products – from our teas to our sweet and savory spreads.
  • Join a CSA. By becoming a member of a Community Supported Agriculture club, you can buy a share of produce or dairy products from regional farmers, and usually at a big discount when compared to supermarket prices. Support your local farmers and get the freshest, seasonal products available.
  • Grow your own. Consider starting your own garden. Whether you plant herbs, veggies or fruits, you can see big savings this way and you know exactly how fresh and organic that produce is.
  • Buy in season. Flavors are at their very best and in-season produce is often priced lower. Win-win.
  • Pick your battles. If you can’t afford all organic, be discerning with which items you buy organic. Fruits and vegetables with thin skins generally absorb the most pesticides. Choose organic meats, cheeses, and milk first. These items are worth the price tag of organic since they have the highest concentration of pesticides when non-organic. Bananas, on the other hand, are thick-skinned and less likely to have absorbed any potentially harmful chemicals.
  • Buy supermarket brands. When you’re shopping at your supermarket, choose the in-store brand over the private label. Many supermarkets are going organic and must follow the same organic guidelines so be sure to take advantage of their lower prices.
  • Shop at farmers’ markets. Head to the farmers’ markets! Although you may not see organic labels and USDA seals of approval, you can talk to farmers about their practices and confirm that they don’t use pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Produce at farmers’ markets is often fresher and because it uses less packaging, it’s also more eco-friendly.

Consider making the switch, if you haven’t already. There are plenty of ways to avoid splurging when choosing organic food.

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For the Love of Chocolat

From waffles and beer to frîtes with mayonnaise, Belgium tends to have a reputation for its delicious culinary specialties. But perhaps the most well known food of all to emerge from this tiny country is chocolate!

Recognized the world over as the finest chocolate available, Belgian chocolate tells a story of craftsmanship, tradition and excellent ingredients.

The history of chocolate making in Belgium stretches back to the 17thcentury, when Spanish explorers introduced cacao to Europe from their South American travels. Traditionally consumed as a drink by ancient Mayans and Aztecs, this custom soon became a luxury exclusive to Spanish nobility, who ruled Belgium at the time.

Interestingly, in a 1697 visit to Brussels, Henri Escher, the mayor of Zurich, tried this chocolatey beverage and was so impressed that he brought the idea back to Switzerland. Several hundred years later, Switzerland is Belgium’s main competition in the realm of chocolate!

However, it wasn’t until Belgium’s King Leopold II colonized the Congo in the 19th century, that chocolate became more available to the general public. This not-so-sweet intervention gave Belgium direct access to high quality cacao trees, spurring the now deep culinary tradition.

Today, Belgian chocolate is distinguished by its artisanal, old world processing techniques and high quality standards. While the European Union allows chocolatiers to replace up to 5% of their cocoa butter with various vegetable fats,  Belgian chocolatiers pride themselves on using 100% cocoa butter, which enhances smoothness and flavor of the chocolate.

When it comes to chocolate at Le Pain Quotidien, we bring Belgian tradition to the table, along with some serious sustainability credentials, by partnering with Tohi, a family-owned company known for their organic, fair-trade chocolate.

Traveling the world in search of subtle and sometimes little known flavors, the master chocolatiers at Tohi have created a delicious and sustainable line of organic chocolate bars for us. Ranging from traditional flavors to more surprising and rare flavors, our favorites include Speculoos, Poivre Rose (pink peppercorn) and Earl Grey.

Besides creating organic, fair-trade chocolate, Tohi is also well known for its environmentally conscious practices such as its completely recyclable packaging and COneutral production, which means the production of our chocolate has net zero carbon footprint on our planet.

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Ginette Old Bread: From LPQ Bread to Organic Beer

Ginette uses organic old bread from Le Pain Quotidien!

To prevent wasting of our bread in our stores, we decided to make organic beer from our organic old bread! Quality and taste guaranteed! To help us with this search, we asked the help of Ginette!

But who is Ginette?

Behind Ginette, there are four Walloon friends and entrepreneurs, not brewers, who are dedicated and passionate about simplicity! Driven by enthusiastic consumers with national pride, but who have little variation in taste. So, they decided 9 years ago to develop beer, with a biological recipe and with the help of a professional, Bruno Ghorainfrom Binchoise.

Ginette is white, fruity, blond and even triple!

We were surprised, when we heard that Ginette varies from blonde, white, fruity and triple! It is certain that these variants are connected with authenticity and have the same purpose: thirst-quenching. But not only that – These ingredients come from organic farming and are traditionally brewed.

Let’s give a Ginette, made of bread!

Their team has been working on the recipe for six months and are developing it exclusively for Le Pain Quotidien, so it will undoubtedly be surprising. The secret recipe? Our old organic bread! It is reused, from L’Atelier Du Pain, and converted into a organic light blond table beer in a traditional way, with double fermentation, for a period of 6 weeks, according to the principle of the circular economy.

This new Ginette, made possible by Le Pain Quotidien, is called ‘Old Bread’ beer. There will surely be endless conversations about this half liter with family, friends and lovers.

In short, this Ginette is a traditional beer that has something to offer when you need refreshment. Drink it when you’re parched because there is no better beer in Belgium!

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Alain’s Favorite Kitchen Tool

It’s no surprise that my favorite kitchen tool is the knife. I believe in good, uncomplicated fare, which often times only requires the simplest preparation of fresh ingredients – cutting, chopping, combining. Fresh ingredients sometimes only need a good knife to be prepared for consumption. This is where the need for a quality, multi-purpose knife comes in. Medium-sized, high quality.

My favorite knife is a basic, demi chef knife, which is usually about 10” in size or about 250mm. This is a medium sized knife, perfect for various types of food preparation from cutting meat, large fruits and vegetables to finely chopping shallots and herbs. If you’re putting together a wedding registry or you’re simply in the market for new, updated kitchen tools, a good knife should take priority. With its numerous uses, a quality demi chef knife is certainly worth the investment.

I suggest keeping your demi chef knife sharp using a round sharpening steel. When you’re preparing, be sure to use a sharpening steel frequently to maintain the knife’s sharpness and precision. You shouldn’t be able to see a space when the knife is flat to your cutting board. Your knife should be flat enough to chop parsley or other herbs finely. Also, try to keep your knife dry when you’re not using it to prevent rusting and corrosion. If you care for your knife properly, it will last you years!

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