By Amy Nile Herald Writer
EVERETT — When employees at Everett’s L’Artisan French Bakery arrived at work Tuesday morning, customers were waiting in the parking lot. It’s become a Christmas Eve tradition.
Owner and French pastry chef Jacky Lichtenthaler had worked through the night to bring a centuries-old European custom to Everett. This year marks the bakery’s first decade of making it a local one, too.
“It goes crazy,” Lichtenthaler, a native of France, said. “Everybody loves it.”
Buche de Noel — whose name means “yule log” — are served in French homes on Christmas Eve.
The recipe, Lichtenthaler said, dates back centuries. The cakes are made to resemble the garnished logs Europeans once burned to welcome the new year and clear the air of past events. The hand-rolled cakes are filled with flavored mousse or custard. Decorations on the frosted outside include chocolate branches, berries and powdered sugar snow.
“In France, most of the homes get one,” said Lichtenthaler, who is from Strasbourg. He and his wife, Rosanna, live in the Bothell area.
Fellow French immigrant Philippe Greiner, also of Bothell, is happy to find Buche de Noel so close by. He picked his up just after 8 a.m. at L’Artisan, which is near Silver Lake at 11419 19th Ave. SE.
“It’s original to what we have back home,” he said. “It’s a taste of home.”
Debra Schilling, of Everett, said she incorporates the beautifully made Buche de Noel into her family’s Christmas Eve ritual.
“I love the French tradition and the burning of the logs,” Schilling said. “It’s become a family tradition.”
To keep up with the increasing demand, Lichtenthaler said, he baked for 36 hours straight this year.
“Sometimes he never comes home,” Rosanna Lichtenthaler said. “It’s just the life of a pastry chef.”
Lichtenthaler makes the cakes from scratch using natural ingredients. He said he used more than 350 pounds of butter for Christmas treats this year.
In 2003, the bakery’s first Christmas Eve left the display case empty. The Lichtenthalers had to turn customers away. That’s why they now take orders for Buche de Noel earlier, and they make extras.
Kerry Cassady, of Monroe, ordered hers ahead this year. She picked up two of the chocolate logs with chocolate filling.
“They’re just fantastic,” she said. “We started coming here just after they opened.”
Lichtenthaler said he expected to sell out before he closed for the day.
Seeing customers leave smiling makes up for his working three weeks without a day off to prepare for the holidays, he said.
“When you see how happy people are,” he said, “that’s what this is all about.”