One of My Favorite Local Bakeries

One of My Favorite Local Bakeries

Vanille in Lincoln Park is one of my absolute favorite local bakeries. If I ever want to treat myself, I stop in for either a brownie or a chocolate chip cookie. Their cookies are perfect just the right amount of chocolate and crunchy outer layer. I recently chatted with the owner, Sophie, about the shop, menu, and future of Vanille!

Tell us a little about your background and how Vanille got started

I always knew I wanted to own a business, and I also really loved baking and pastry. I moved to Chicago in 2009 to attend the French Pastry School, and after school got a job in the suburbs at a chocolate manufacturer. It was rough! But, I learned about high-volume production.

Around that same time, my old pastry instructor and his wife were looking to sell their business, Vanille. I bought the business when I was 29 and the rest is history! I initially had no intention to run Vanille as a retail bakery, but I am so glad that is how it unfolded.

How do you come up with your menu?

I really like to collaborate with my team when we are looking for new ideas. We always like to base our flavors on what is in season, so we rotate a lot of the selection based on that. And we always have macaroons, which we are known for.

We are fortunate that the bakery is in Chicago, where people’s standards for food are very high, and they appreciate high-quality ingredients and the amount of time it takes to produce high-quality pastry.

What are some of your favorite items?

I really love our cheesecake, which is ironic since it is not French! We use mascarpone cheese, and it is not too sweet – very comforting.

We also recently made what we’re calling “Dosants,” which are croissants filled with donut flavors like Boston Cream Pie. People love them!

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love how diverse our city is and how many different people we serve. We have our morning regulars, our after-school regulars, and all different nationalities and ages. Creating pastries makes our kitchen happy, and eating pastries makes our customers happy.

What is your most memorable request or custom order?

In 2012 we served President Obama and NATO! We did not know the order was for them until afterward. They ordered a blood orange mousse, and the feedback was positive!

Do you have one tip for the at-home baker?

Use European butter – it has less moisture in it so the flavor is more concentrated and intense.

What does the future hold for Vanille?

We plan to keep doing what we’re doing while evolving and watching our customers grow.

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Our intentions are equipped with actions, which is why I lead the market with higher sale-to-list prices and faster market times.

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