On a recent Saturday, just down the street from the steps of Lincoln Park on California Street, a crowd gathered on the sidewalk. They weren’t expecting a photo op in front of the iconic mosaic staircase. Instead, they had lined up to receive an order of pies, bread, soup or another delicacy made by Philippe Delarue. Over the past two years, the French expat and pastry chef has built up a clientele by running a pop-up patisserie in his Edwardian apartment every weekend.
Delarue has a unique calling card: wearing a fitted Betón Ciré cap, he leans out the second-floor window and places his homemade products in a wicker picnic basket for people waiting below, such as a scene straight out of a Disney movie.
The former owner of Patisserie PhilippeDelarue began Pastry on California at the start of the pandemic, in May 2020. It started with fresh crêpes and now sells a variety of pastries and French dishes, from pies to brioche and beyond.
The patisserie quickly had a loyal clientele, including a Muni bus driver who stopped on their way to visit. Things really exploded when TikTok user @taybeepboop made a video in March 2022 featuring Patisserie on California. The clip now has more than 600,000 views and it’s common for a line to form outside Delarue’s garage at 6822 California St. before he and his crew have even finished settling in for the day.
“The regular customers were a bit annoyed, like what’s going on?” Delarue spoke of her sudden rise in popularity. “They usually didn’t have a queue, just about three or four people. But then it was around the corner, like 30-40 people waiting.
Delarue’s love for food dates back to his childhood home in Le Mans, France, where he learned the ropes by helping his mother cook for their family. He then studied the art of pastry by following an apprenticeship in a pastry shop in his hometown before going to work for the famous Gaston Lenotre in Paris.
From there he moved to London and Montreal, eventually crossing the US border illegally in the trunk of a Cadillac. He is now a full US citizen and lives in San Francisco, though he shares a taste of his native France every Saturday and Sunday with his clients.
“Pastries are comfort food – her friendship,” Delarue said. “When I have a really good friendship, the food is at the center of the conversation.”