Phillipe Laurier is a baker who dreams confectionery fantasies - airplanes of solid sugar, a jogging shoe cake with enough calories to fuel a marathoner, and wedding cakes fit for real princesses.
Richard Berk is a businessman who envisions chains of pastry shops - White Flint, Tysons Corner, Washington and beyond.
They are partners.
The business is called Palais des Friandises-palace of delicacies-and opens its first shop Friday at White Flint mall.
The shop may turn out a few cookies-as much for the aroma as for the added sales-but the serious baking will be done by Laurier, two asistants and an apprentice in a Rockville light industrial park.
About the size of a suburban home, the 3,000 square foot kitchen has stainless steel croissant rolling machines, temperature and humidity controlled rising cabinets for the dough, walk-in ovens and what look like industrial-strength Cuisinarts.
The bakery, Berk explains, was built big enough to supply French pastry for all the educated palates in Washington and its suburbs. The White Flint shop is the first of five already planned and several more that Berk hopes to build. Tysons in 1979, the Fair Oaks shopping center at Route 66 and 50 in Fairfax in 1980, and a downtown Washington store at an aunspecifed date are scheduled.
A New York insurance broker, Berk was turned on to baking by his son, who showed his father a California cookie shop that was turning out almost as much cash as calories. Cash from cookies turned into profits form pastry when Berk was introduced to Laurier.
The son of a pastry chef and the grandson of a chef, Laurier, 37, went into the kitchen as an apprentice 14 and came out with the equivalent of two masters degrees, one for confectionary and the other for his teaching ability.
After running pastry shops in Monaco and Nice, Laurier emigrated to New York in 1976, working as executive pastry chef at La Grenouille - the fancy Frech restauant that gossip columnists call "the frog pond" - and Les Delices La Cote Basque, a jet-set pastry shop.
Laurier's specialty is confectionary sugar sculpture - edible, but rarely eaten - for which he won first prize in the annual salon of Culinary Art in New York last year.
Showing off pictures of his creations like a proud father, Laurier produces snap shots of his multicolor sugar airplane, his jogging shoe cake produced for this year's Marine Marathon and other edibles dating to his days in France.