These days, Instagram is flooded with food photos from around the world. From the extraordinary to the less than appetizing, the social network has spawned massive trends like charcoal ice cream cones and avocado lattes, and launched careers of “professional foodies.”
With this oversaturation of food porn on my timeline, rarely does a photo make me stop dead in my tracks. Warda Pâtisserie did just that.
With photo after photo of gorgeous, golden brown French pastries, tarts, and cakes, topped with expertly placed fruits or delicately piped meringue, Warda Pâtisserie’s Instagram profile is simply tantalizing.
As beautiful as they are, these pastries are far more than typical French fare. Crafted by Warda Bouguettaya, the “pastries without borders” combine flavors from all over the globe, inspired by her travels.
Originally from Algeria, Bouguettaya moved to metro Detroit after getting married in 2004. In 2012, the two took on another move, shipping off to Shanghai for three years for her husband’s work.
While in Shanghai, Bouguettaya turned toward her lifelong passion for food, enrolling at Institut Paul Bocuse.
“I was in the kitchen for a while and then moved to the pastry department and never looked back,” she says. “I loved it.”
Here, she refined her skills, studying the intricacies of delicate French pastries.
But this wasn’t her first experience in baking. Not by a long shot.
Bouguettaya’s love of food stems from her mother and grandmother. “We are a family of eaters and cooks,” she says with a laugh, “I guess it’s part of our culture.”
She explains her passion for baking came from her grandmother.
“My grandmother cooked traditional Algerian, but when she was baking, she would bake only French,” Bouguettaya says. “It goes back to Algeria being a former French colony.” She recalls her grandmother listening to the radio for recipes, eager to try them right away.
One favorite recipe from her grandmother, a jam tart always made for each grandchild on their birthday, is in Bouguettaya’s rotation of the sweets she deliveres to locations like The Farmer’s Hand in Corktown.
And while some recipes are pulled from her childhood, many others are inspired by favorite flavors Bouguettaya has discovered while traveling the world.
While living in Shanghai, Bouguettaya and her husband traveled often, especially around Southeast Asia. There, she began to taste fruits, spices, and even textures she had never experienced before. “It changed the way I was cooking, and influenced a lot of my baking as well,” she says.
Instead of simply recreating traditional sweets from the countries she’s explored, Bouguettaya takes a more abstract approach.
“I don’t necessarily think about a certain place whenever I’m baking; it’s mostly experiences and flavors that I have had,” she explains. For instance, while in China, she tasted passion fruit for the first time. “I just fell in love with [it], and I thought about combining this with milk chocolate,” she says. After experimenting with the flavors in a chocolate tart, she discovered the cultural infusion went even a step further.
“It’s funny, when I made this tart, a friend of mine who is from Latin America told me that in Latin America they have this candy and it’s made with chocolate and passion fruit, and I thought, ‘this was meant to happen,’ ” she says.
Now back home in metro Detroit, Bouguettaya wants to share these experiences with hungry Detroiters. In 2016, she began selling her pastries at the Corktown Farmers Market, soon expanding to other locations like Trinosophes in Eastern Market.
Bouguettaya aims to make her pastries accessible to the average eater. “I know a lot of my pastries can intimidate people, and I understand that when you don’t know something, your first instinct, for any human being, would be to shy away from it,” she explains.
“But, the idea is to combine all these influences, whether it’s from North Africa, or it’s from Asia, or even from Michigan and to bring it together.”
She lures in less-than-adventurous eaters by bringing the flavors home. “By using local ingredients, ingredients people are familiar with, I introduce something that might look foreign to them,” she says.
For instance, a tart made with a hazelnut frangipane (pastry made with egg yolks, flour, butter and milk), orange blossom mousse, Michigan rhubarb gelée, hibiscus jelly, and a coconut rose crumble, or even a simple bread packed with dried Michigan cherries, blend local and international flavors seamlessly.
And while the pastries are obviously beautiful, flavor is the top concern. “The visual aspect in baking or cooking is important, but most important, at the end of the day, it has to taste good,” she says.
Tasting is obviously believing, and the business has generated a cult following. But as the popularity grows, so does demand. Bouguettaya is operating solo out of a shared kitchen in Detroit, but hopes to bring on additional help.
And perhaps someday, Bouguettaya will open a brick-and-mortar bakery. Even with larger plans on the horizon, pastries are more than a business, and her experiences are more than just inspiration.
“I feel like I am all of these places,” Bouguettaya says.” Not only in my cooking or my baking, but even my idea of home.”