At almost 70 years old, this mystery of French pastry remains an eternal hit of successful holidays on the Côte d’Azur.
“Douliou douliou Saint-Tropez. In 1956, when Roger Vadim released “And God…created woman”, Saint-Tropez was just a pretty fishing port popular with a few artists. The fi lm propels the city and the gulf of the same name into the light. During filming the previous year, Brigitte Bardot fell in love with what she described as “a unique delicious pie, light under its air of a Christian smother”: the tropézienne, invented by a Polish immigrant, Alexandre Micka, and whose she agrees to be the godmother. His handwritten letter still stands, set under glass, at the company’s headquarters.
Since 1985, the Dufrêne family has taken over the institution. With the famous Saint-Tropez sandals, beach restaurants such as Club 55 or the Caves du Roy nightclub, this mystery of French pastry, whose slogan is “often imitated, never equalled”, remains a symbol of Saint-Tropez.
Its recipe is a secret “better kept than the Coke formula”
It is a unique flavor, a mixture of three creams, including a pastry cream, flavored with vanilla, spread between two layers of brioche. “A better-kept secret than the Coca-Cola formula,” explains Albert Dufrêne, with the white mane of an old lion. This former Haute-Savoie hairdresser bought Alexandre Micka’s company thirty-seven years ago. “He had no heir. His wife came from the mountains, like me. Its trademark and recipe were not protected. We got on well. Under his rule, the bakery will expand, launch catering activities, acquire a distribution network on the Mediterranean coast and in France. Today, the company achieves more than 10 million euros in turnover and employs between 150 and 270 people. In Cogolin, in a high-tech laboratory, 3,000 pies are concocted a day.
“Ten slices per pie, as there are 1 million people in the gulf in the summer, that still leaves room,” laughs Albert Dufrêne. Today, it is his son Sacha – so named in homage to the creator of the pie, who passed away in 1995; Sasha is the diminutive of Alexander for the Slavs – who runs the company. Every morning, he starts his day at Place des Lices, the heart of Saint-Tropez, in one of his three bakeries, with a coffee and a piece of pie. “We have launched a ‘chronofresh’ activity, which makes it possible to deliver to any point on French territory in twenty-four hours,” he says. After a first successful experience in Dallas, in the United States, he plans to launch a franchise in Switzerland, while waiting for Dubai. La Tarte tropézienne plans to send its future licensees a base concocted in the Gulf… of Saint Tropez. Because there is no question of revealing the secrets of a grandmother’s recipe known to three people.