In a town that before three years ago lacked many dedicated French restaurants, it is good to report that June 2014 saw the opening of the bakery Maitre Artisan (master artisan), which lives up to its name by having a French chef. A native of Angers in the Loire Valley, Damien Guilleux studied cooking and patisserie, eventually earning a certificate to teach them. He met Kim Eunsook at his own bakery in 2005 while she was a pastry student in France, and she herself spent a decade in the country. They were married in 2012, and have a son. After 15 years working in Paris, Damien decided he wanted to do something different, so he relocated his family to his wife’s hometown. Given that the Korean bakery chain Paris Baguette has opened a branch in Paris, it is a relief that an authentic French boulangerie has opened in Busan.
Damien is very outgoing and engaging, which makes it a pity he doesn’t speak English; he talks in French so fast that I can barely understand him. He doesn’t know Korean, either, and Eunsook also doesn’t speak English. They can communicate with anyone via their products, though. These are different from what you find at typical bakeries in this country, being made with imported French flour and equipment, including an oven of which Damien is proud. Besides baguettes, croissants and the usual goodies one associates with a boulangerie, there are also a couple of kinds of quiche, sandwiches, croque monsieur, etc., all of which can be eaten on the premises or to go.
There is even real French hot or cold chocolate that is melted in milk rather than made with powder. Espresso, latte and tea are served, too. A restroom is conveniently located to the right of the cake display case. Best of all, everything is cheaper than most Korean places, with 2000-4500 won being the price of the majority of goods, and 3000 for the drinks.
Between Geumnyeonsan to the north and Kyungsung to the south, Maitre Artisan is conveniently located for a large number of expats, and is worth a trip to Suyeong-gu even for those who don’t live close by. Although still quite new, it gets plenty of customers, thanks partly to an article on it in the Busan Ilbo. The growing popularity of French food in Korea is a sign of a sea change here, since foreign food other than fast food stirred little interest until recently, and then only in more international neighborhoods. Damien and Eunsook are part of a new breed of Franco-Korean couples that are helping to change the country.
Take line 2 to Namcheon exit 1, turn 180 degrees to your right at street level and walk 20 meters to the corner by the IBK Bank. Turn left and go straight 175 paces along Suyeong-ro 408 beon gil. Maitre Artisan is ahead on the left corner, and is gray with a black sign and gold letters. Hours 730-2130, phone 070-8829-0513, Namcheondong-ro 22 beon gil 21. Damien’s email is [email protected], and Eunsook’s is [email protected]. Bon appétit.