Profile: Delysées’ Fred Naggar

Ever wonder who’s behind the instant success of Toronto’s top bakery Delysees? Vv Magazine’s Nicki Laborie has been following the entrepreneur since he first launched the French “patisserie” and decided it was time we all discover what makes this place so special. We even created a delicious video so we could ensure to have you drooling too…

Delysées was born in September of 2013, and instantly became one of the best French “patisseries” Toronto has to offer. Located on West King West, it attracts sweet lovers from all over the GTA and is one of the go-to bakeries for some of the city’s top event planners and PR agencies, as well as restaurants who have no in-house pastry chef. It’s been amazing to watch a business flourish as quickly and successfully as Delysées has.

Parisian-born Fred Naggar is the owner and creator of this French café, which he dreamt up over 15 years ago when he first graduated from George Brown College. He is the first person you notice when entering Delysées because he is always there, welcoming and happy. Since opening almost three years ago, the passionate entrepreneur has barely taken time off – except for New Year’s Day, the only 24 consecutive hours of the year the bakery is closed.

As a fellow Frenchy and entrepreneur, I have watched him over the last year and a half only to stay amazed by the quality of what he does and the amazing rapport he builds with every person that walks into his store. His display window is always filled with beautiful pastries, macarons, mini-sandwiches, salads, and chocolates, all of which are made fresh daily, if not in the last hour. His team is always happy and guests never leave unsatisfied. A motivating force for his staff, most of which have been with him since day one, is the fact that his success story is one to be admired and inspired by.

“I bring back ideas, not even for creating new products, but more to absorb what they are doing in Paris.”

Over coffee, Fred and I get into a discussion about his latest research trip to Paris – a pilgrimage he makes at least once a year. “I bring back ideas, not even for creating new products, but more to absorb what they are doing in Paris.” In the same breath he tells me that on this trip, he experienced the best dessert he’s ever tried in his life: a ‘Mont Blanc,’ which is a chocolate chestnut meringue and apparently unforgettable. Sadly, the chestnuts can only be found in France, so the Ontario government will determine whether Toronto gets to try it eventually or not. Ah, the sweet laws of our province…

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Fred explains that he’s respectful of the laws but brings in whatever ingredients he can from France to ensure his products are as close to the real thing as possible. I all too well know that his almond croissant is as close to the one I used to eat during my summers in Bordeaux. He explains he refused to offer these to his customers until he was able to master the recipe – recipe is now mastered.

This May Surprise You….

So, where did this passionate gourmand start his career? “I was born in Paris and moved to Canada when I was 12. I went to George Brown in Culinary Arts/Baking, and when I graduated I didn’t feel ready for that world, so I got a job in fashion.”

“…even though I’d never worked in sales before, they gave me two brands to see if I could sell. The name of the jean line was Seven and I thought, ‘what a stupid name’.”

Really? My surprise continues as I learn that he is the man responsible for bringing some of the hottest fashion brands to Canada. “I worked for the great wholesaler CC Apparel in Montreal and, even though I’d never worked in sales before, they gave me two brands to see if I could sell. The name of the jean line was Seven, and I thought, ‘What a stupid name.’” Ha! Not a bad brand to start with.

He continues, “The second line had only v-neck t-shirts available in 12 colours and the name of that brand was Juicy.” My mouth drops as he tells me this. That was about 15 years ago, and we all know the history that followed. Both lines saw triumphant success, and Fred learned everything about the business of fashion and how to work with people.

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After bringing the Montreal wholesaler enormous success, the entrepreneur in Fred cried out and he left to start his own distribution company. Partnered with his brother, his lucky stroke kept striking as they managed to meet the right people and landed two brands that again were just in their beginnings. The first begged Fred to take him on — Ed Hardy was the name. Second was the brand that eventually moved him into a fast-paced lifestyle between LA and NYC — Rock & Republic, started by a lovely couple in LA, asked Fred to take the brand on in Canada. While at the time nobody knew how amazing this label would be, Fred is a big part of the reason it became what it is.

A lucky –but definitely hard-working– Frenchman quickly managed to generate higher sales in Canada than in the US, which lead to a bi-coastal life between LA and NYC. For six years he was immersed in the world of fashion, working with some of the best brands the market has seen, including Justin Timberlake’s William Rast.

Fascinated by this “patissier” yet?

Fast forward a few years later…

“I have only good things to say about my experience – but I didn’t love it. I missed my home, which is Toronto. I couldn’t do what I did over there over here, so I made the decision to leave the business. I took two years for myself and went to Thailand, traveled the world, dated all different types of women and three years ago, decided I wanted to make the dream I had 12 years ago of creating this bakery a reality.”

“We don’t come from money. My brother and I were taught that hard work and respecting people pays off.”

He tells me about some photos he took years ago when he was first conceptualizing Delysées. 12 years later, they are a reality. His success has not gone to his head – he feels blessed and says that while luck has something to do with it, so does hard work.

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Fred Naggar’s first concept for Delysees, 12 years ago.

“We don’t come from money. My brother and I were taught that hard work and respecting people pays off.”

Delysées is on-point. The quality of ingredients he uses are imperative, as is staying on-trend. He is very proud of what he puts out, saying that his offerings are based on things he loves that nobody can find in Toronto. He is always striving to be better and to keep his product as authentic as possible.

His mini-sandwiches are deliciously French, and his eclairs are available in amazingly unique flavours (try the popcorn one… OMG) and are quickly becoming the product that sets Delysées apart from other bakeries in the city. It is the most difficult product to make because the pate a choux has to be made exactly right and very few people can execute the glazing properly.

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His croissants are impeccably French and you can bet on the fact that you’ll get one straight out of the oven as Fred has trained his team with the dictum, “30 minutes at the front or throw it out.”

Like his pastries, his famous macarons –made three times a day– are some of Toronto’s best. “I can honestly say we have the largest selection of macarons in Ontario — maybe even Canada. During Christmas, we carried 42 flavours and we always carry 35. But while macarons are a big part of our business, it’s not all our business.”

That’s probably because when you’re in front of the Delysées display, you want to try everything.

What’s Next?

This year, the 41-year-old entrepreneur is soon opening more locations. He wants to expand because he loves what he does and, simply put, he is a very good businessman. But quality will not suffer. He trusts his team and trains them to be exactly like himself, “I tell my staff, ‘Do as I do, not as I say.'”

“I tell my staff, ‘Do as I do, not as I say.’”

His work ethic is truly immaculate. But there is another motivating factor: With a baby girl at home, if he has any doubt about what he’s doing, it’s his daughter. “That’s the hardest thing, to leave my daughter every morning.” His days start earlier than most and end later than most. But his favourite moments are when he’s holding his baby girl for that one-hour at the end of his day.

I leave Delysées feeling completely surprised by Fred’s story, but also endeared by what a wonderfully humble man he is. Luck or no luck, great things happen to great people and he has certainly proved that passion and hard work does pay off.

If you’ve been to Delysées, what is your favourite treat? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.

Nicki Laborie

Nicki Laborie

Nicki Laborie is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of View the Vibe & Vv Magazine. Nicki has spent her adult life everywhere from Montreal to New York to St. Maarten, and finally ended up in Toronto. She started her career studying fashion journalism at FIT followed by working in media and PR with some of the world's top fashion and luxury brands. Eventually she ended up back in the restaurant business working with hot culinary spots in NYC, St. Maarten and Toronto. Her combined experience inspired her to start View the Vibe and Vv Magazine.
Nicki Laborie

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