Pearl Complex
11:40 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Culinary Institute Bakery Cafe Closing At The Pearl

A cup of joe and a cream puff may be on the menu at any coffee shop in town but you'd better make plans to stop by the Pearl Friday. That's because the Culinary Institute of America's Bakery Cafe is closing.

The decision didn't come easy for Alain Dubernard, the man with the French-sounding name and accent, who is a Mexican native and is the bakery school's chair and only teacher.

Dubernard came to the conclusion that the Bakery Cafe, although a beloved community treasure with many fans, needed to be used for instruction. The school's baking program is rising and will double by next year, said Dubernard. Currently, there are 20 students in the program and next year will bring at least that many more.

"I hope the people can understand this," said Dubernard this week. "It's been difficult for me, I mean I opened the shop, and I'm a successful business man. I don't like closing but in this case, this is education, this is the right decision, and this is the way we're going."

Dubernard estimates about three people will be laid off with the closing of the cafe. Students like Erica Casares would work in the cafe to create sweets the community grew to love.

"So it is kind of sad seeing it go because we worked hard for it but unfortunately we do need the space for students and our education does unfortunately -- not unfortunately, but it does come first," Casares said.

Dubernard instructs the students in one of the school's many classrooms. After book instruction, the students head over to the school's only bake shop.

While he doesn't know what the Bakery Cafe will turn into, he explained that he is simply running out of space, and that is not only unacceptable, but unfair to the students.

"Our core thing is to educate and I cannot deal with students not having space in the fridge," he said. "I cannot be saying just don't touch that door because that door is for the bake shop cafe, or you know, sorry, we don't have any more heat trays because they're used for... we cannot go in that direction."

This week, its last, members of the community have been stopping by to grab their last pastry and coffee.

Melissa Yosko wanted one of everything.

"So we can have it one last time," she said standing in line.

Sarai Leeb doesn't like the cafe closing, but agrees it is for a good reason.

"They're utilizing it to educate our youth; can't complain about that," Leeb said.

And Sabine Zenker became friends with the staff as a regular.

"It's been a good addition to the Pearl because it's also a place where people like us can sit here and I see people with their pets and using it to be photographed, they do photography and so it's a good family spot, it was, it was fun," she said.

After Dubernard's explanation of the closure, he hinted that there will be some form of community bakery in the future.

"People love our croissants, they cannot find anywhere else, and how they going to do it now?" Dubernard said.

"So, you know, we eventually come up with something," he said. "I think the near future we do something when the students are more than ready and the program is running well, I'm sure we'll find the way to be out there again."

Culinary Institute Communications Director Stephan Hengst, who is based at the school's base in New York, confirmed there is talk of a pop-up cafe concept that may be located at the institute's restaurant, Nao, or some other form of a cafe for students to produce pastries for the public.

Until then, Dubernard has a creative idea for listeners of Texas Public Radio.

"We'll have a croissant tasting on a Saturday. Maybe we'll do something. You know? That'd be great for NPR," he said with a smile.

We can't argue with that.