An acclaimed Salt Lake City bakery is closing at the end of the year, concluding a two-decade saga for its baker and owner — who promises a new chapter still to come.
Romina Rasmussen, owner/baker of Les Madeleines, at 216 E. 500 South in Salt Lake City, announced Monday on Facebook that she would close the bakery on Dec. 30 — with a celebration on Dec. 15 to mark the business’s 19th anniversary before it goes.
Rasmussen told The Tribune that she can’t find enough staff to run the bakery, and that this year — the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic — has been the most difficult.
“I’ve worked seven days a week, 12 to 15 hours a day. I just can’t do it anymore,” she said, clarifying that the decision wasn’t because of any financial situation. “It’s just the kind of thing where life is not really life at the moment. I work, and I sleep. I’ve always given this place my all. I love my shop, and I feel really proud of what I’ve accomplished here. But it’s time to focus a little bit more just on being a person.”
It was two decades ago that Rasmussen said goodbye to her corporate job, trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York, and came home to Salt Lake City to open Les Madeleines.
Rasmussen opened her first location, at 660 S. State St., in December 2003. A year later, Tribune food writer Nancy Hobbs sang its praises, declaring the croissants were the best she had had, and that Rasmussen made everything — even the graham crackers for her graham-cracker crusts — from scratch, “using only the best ingredients, such as Plugra butter and Valrhona chocolate. And the items baked each day vary, depending on what’s fresh on the market, or what sounds intriguing.”
Les Madeleines was one of the first Salt Lake-area bakeries to sell gourmet cupcakes and macarons. And Rasmussen was the first pastry chef west of the Mississippi to make and sell kouign-amann, a multi-layered, laminated cake originating in the Breton region of France.
Since announcing the bakery’s closure, Rasmussen said she has had an outpouring of love from customers, who told her they wished they had come by more.
“I’m really overwhelmed by people’s responses,” she said. “So many really lovely, kind things they’ve said all day long, and that’s really nice. I didn’t necessarily expect that. I wasn’t expecting people to be like, ‘Yay, you’re gone.” [laughs] But I didn’t expect this outpouring. It’s been really nice to have people share with me what I’ve done means to them.”
Rasmussen said that when she first opened her doors, there were few, if any other scratch-made French bakeries in town. “Nineteen years is a really long time,” she said. “The world has changed. Food changed so much in those 19 years. When I first opened, you had to call Information. You had to call 411 to get our address and phone.”
As for the anniversary celebration on Dec. 15, Rasmussen said her plans are still in the works.
“I’m not sure what it’ll be,” she said. “It’s a Thursday, so not the sexiest day of the week. [laughs] When it’s not a sexy day of the week, then sometimes we just do a giveaway. Last year, we did birthday bon-bons. We’ve done cupcakes. So there’s always some kind of celebratory thing. When it’s been on the weekends, we often have a party. … I haven’t decided what we’ll make it, but we’ll make it something more party-like.”
Once the plan is in place, she said, she will post information on the cafe’s Instagram account.
Until the closure date, she said, Les Madeleines will maintain its regular hours — 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Recently, she had to close at 10 a.m. for a meeting she couldn’t miss, but barring an emergency like that, she’s going to keep to her schedule.
Online orders are open through that date, too, so customers can place orders, including for such holiday pastries as Buche de Noel. The bakery also will ship out of state until the end of the year.
Come 2023, Utahns may need to visit Rasmussen’s YouTube cooking channel to get their Les Madeleines fix — for now.
“I do have a couple of other projects in the works,” Rasmussen said, adding that people should keep tabs on social media and on the website, where she will announce her plans in the next week or so.
“I’m just not ready to talk about [my plans] yet. But one’s sweet, the other’s savory,” she said. “So there’s more to come.”