Inside Chez Arnaud with Arnaud de Rambures

Pastry chef Arnaud de Rambures works magic with chocolate at his White Bear Lake bakery.
Arnaud de Rambures creates pastries and sweets that are as delicious as they are beautiful.

If there's one word that's synonymous with Valentine's Day, it's chocolate—or chocolat, as the French say. If your Valentine has a sweet tooth (and who doesn’t?), hightail it to Chez Arnaud, White Bear Lake’s favorite French bakery. You’ll find pastries and other treats, from tarts to macarons, all crafted with care by head pastry chef Arnaud de Rambures and his talented staff.
De Rambures, who was born on the French island of Reunion—east of Madagascar, off the coast of Africa—moved to Minnesota in 2010 to start Chez Arnaud, which now has several locations around the Twin Cities. The White Bear Lake bakery opened in late 2011 and has been a big hit. “It’s always great to get into a new community and be able to offer something different, authentic,” says de Rambures. “We try to help different local organizations every month; it is always a great moment when we can participate in our neighborhood activities.”
At only 27, de Rambures has an impressive resume, both in the kitchen and out of it. “I’ve been my mum’s best cooking assistant since I was 6,” he says with a laugh. “My first job was in an alpine restaurant in the Alps. I would pick wild berries in the mountains all morning long, and spend my afternoons doing pies. At night, sharing those pies with our customers was always a great time.”  

During a hiatus from baking, he studied marketing and management, and worked in the medical field. In 2005, de Rambures founded a humanitarian organization, L’Association Enfants d’Afrique, in Burkina Faso, a West African country. The organization focused on building schools and libraries to advance the educational opportunities of children in rural Burkina Faso. “It kept me really busy,” says de Rambures.  

But fine food was still calling his name, and he went back to France for studies at the Institut National de la Boulangerie Patisserie in Rouen, France. “After good training and some experience, I decided to jump to the other side of the Atlantic,” he says.
So, why Minnesota? “A lot of French people go to New York, San Francisco or Miami to open their bakeries,” he says. “Sadly, there’s not as much [culinary] diversity in the Midwest; it was a lot more inspiring for me to come to a place where I could really bring something new.” Though he laughs at Midwesterners’ love of cinnamon (“I must admit that it is really hard to get away from cinnamon when everyone loves it here!”), de Rambures has taken quickly to his new home—though he still faces some technical challenges. “It was very hard for me at first to duplicate my recipes, using different flour, and living in a climate that is a lot more extreme than in France. [Ingredients] are very sensitive to those kinds of changes.”
Although it can be tricky to replicate true French baking here in the Midwest, that’s all part of the fun, says de Rambures. “Specialties belong to the place they are from. Trying to export a meal that represents a country or a region to another place is very challenging—French pastries hold a big part of history in each of them. It’s important for me to pass on the knowledge about traditional pastries, so we can keep enjoying what our fathers shared with us.”

And if you ask de Rambures what he loves most about his job, you can hear the tangible passion in his voice. “Baking and cooking is all about sharing a different experience, creating a new connection between people,” he says. “I have always aimed to do something that would keep me passionate, just enjoying every second of being challenged. [Creating new recipes] with noble ingredients like flour, chocolate couverture (a high quality chocolate rich with extra cocoa butter), fresh fruit or European butter is always a new, exciting moment. The happiness you are able to create around it is very inspiring.”
Chez Arnaud
4735 Highway 61
White Bear Lake