When Kathy Knight of the Greeneville Sun in Greeneville, Tennessee called me to see if she could do an article about the book I was flattered that someone from so far away knew about the book. As it turned out she had been to Croissants on a few visits to Myrtle Beach. We had an enjoyable conversation, but little did I know she would write such a beautiful article.
This is what she had to say…
At Myrtle Beach French Bistro And Bakery, The Food Is Served With Southern Charm
As one walks through the doors of Croissants Bistro & Bakery in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the aroma is amazing — it’s always sweet, but if you’re there at lunch or dinner, there’s a savory aroma as well. (Croissants is located at the corner of 38th Avenue and Robert M. Grissom Parkway.)
“Bonjour, Y’all!” is the slogan used by Heidi Vukov, owner of the area-wide popular bistro and bakery, in promoting her business. And now she’s written a cookbook by the same name! (More about that to come.)
Croissants Bistro & Bakery is one of my favorite places to dine or to get a birthday cake in Myrtle Beach. Several friends of mine and I discovered this unique place several years ago when we were in need of a birthday cake for a celebration.
As you wallk in the door, there are glass cases filled with fresh-baked goods. In the dining room, the soft-colored walls feature paintings from local artists. The restaurant also has an outdoor patio, which is usually filled at lunch time.
It has become a tradition to have lunch there when we are visiting the area, and more often than not, we leave with goodies from their bakery.
The staff is always extremely friendly. (So much so, you just notice how friendly they are, whether they are taking a bakery order or taking your lunch order.)
Because of their delicious food, I had remarked on a couple of occasions that they “should have a cookbook.”
A few weeks ago when some friends and I were in Myrtle Beach and had lunch at Croissants, I was pleased to see that they now do have a cookbook. It is entitled Bonjour, Y’all! The subtitle is “Heidi’s Fusion Cooking on the South Carolina Coast.”
The book is written by Heidi and her friend Sara Sobota, and the book offers beautiful photographs by Scott Smallin.
In addition to the books’ being available at the combo bistro-bakery, they are now available on Amazon.com and at bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
In the book it states, “Delights such as crab beignets, gazpacho with shrimp, and fruit-filled crepes reflect Croissants’ success in combining the elegance and finesse of the French palate with the hospitality and warmth of the Southern kitchen.
“Throw in an award-winning European bakery, where gorgeous wedding cakes dot the shelves and delicate pastries fill the cases, and you’ve got Croissants.”
After reading though the cookbook, it took me about five minutes to realize I wanted to interview Heidi and let our readers know about her cookbook, her restaurant, and the enthusiastic Heidi herself.
Although she didn’t tell me, I learned that she was honored as South Carolina Restaurateur of the Year in 2011.
After about three minutes into a telephone conversation with Heidi, it feels as though you have known her for years. She loves talking about her food, her cakes, and Myrtle Beach in general.
A Pennsylvania native, Heidi tells ACCENT that she was going through some life changes in 1992 and decided to move to Myrtle Beach with her two (at the time) small children.
“I love the beach and the people of the South Carolina coast,” said Heidi in my telephone interviews with her. “It’s a move I’ve never regretted.”
Heidi had never had formal training as a chef, but took several classes along the way in cooking and baking. She attributes to both of her grandmothers (now deceased) her love of cooking and baking.
She tells ACCENT that one grandmother was from Pennsylvania and grew up during the Great Depression, used lots of lard, and “had a way of making something out of nothing.”
Her other grandmother lived in Germany but near the French border, was heavily influenced by French techniques, and had access to lots of great ingredients.
“They offered me two different philosophies of cooking,” says Heidi, “and there were great things to learn from each.”
OPENED IN 1995
Although she says her initial dream had been to open a bake shop or bakery, the closer to its becoming a reality, “I realized I could probably not pay my rent by only selling muffins.”
When she opened at her original location in 1995 (across the street from the Myrtle Square Mall), she opened for breakfast and lunch and as a bake shop.
“It’s a good thing too,” says Heidi. “For awhile I served about 90 percent meals and 10 percent bakery items. But no fear, I just started walking around talking to people and giving away samples of my baked goods.
“They first started taking some home, and then all of a sudden, word traveled, and we became a destination for bakery items of all kinds.”
“I enjoyed doing the cookbook,” laughs Heidi, “but I just love my business. I do work more than most people I know, but I love every minute of it.”
She went on to say: “It’s not a bad thing either — my four children each have told me that they want to find jobs and careers that they feel as passionate about as I do my business.”
Since Heidi moved to Myrtle Beach, she has met, fallen in love with, and married her husband Gary (a physician). He has two boys so the couple has a total of four children, now all in their twenties.
As far as the cookbook is concerned, Heidi says, “I am really not a writer, and I have been friends with Sara Sobota for years. She’s a freelance writer, and she was great in helping write the book.”
ACCENT learned that Sara’s travel and lifestyle writing has appeared in such magazines as US Airways and Agent@Home, and she also blogs for the Huffington Post. She teaches composition, journalism, and business communication at Coastal Carolina University.
Because the business climate was changing and Croissants was successful, Heidi saw an opportunity to move her business in 2007. She went from being a 35-seat restaurant to a 75-seat one.
Heidi tells ACCENT that she feels the restaurant is successful because she is committed to preparing and serving fresh local veggies, fruits, seafoods, and meats.
“We buy locally to support our merchants and offer top-quality food — we like to offer an intriguing blend of the best ingredients,” says Heidi.
ACCENT had to ask Heidi about the making of wedding cakes. “I love making the wedding cakes,” says Heidi, “but they are time-consuming.”
She tells of an incident when they were preparing to move to the new restaurant and they had a wedding cake to deliver in Murrell’s Inlet, about a 20-30 minute drive from their location.
“We had cleared out the refrigerators except for the cake. In a hurry I took the cake out of the refrigerator and placed it in the van.
“As I was driving down the highway, I looked in the mirror and discovered (to my dismay) that the back of the cake had slid off.” She says this was due to there being too much humidity in the refrigerator.
“I turned that van around and raced back to the bakery, where three of us in record time totally disassembled that cake, put it back together, and decorated. It was amazing.
“I had spent eight hours on the cake the day before, but we got it done and the bridal couple didn’t know until hours after the wedding what had happened.”
ACCENT asked Heidi what some of the customers’ favorite meals were for lunch at Croissant Bistro & Bakery.
She said that the Monte Cristo, the Artichoke & Pimento Cheese Melt, and the Seared Tuna Salad are popular. “And since we are right at the beach,” says Heidi, “our Fish Tacos are a real favorite.”
Heidi says that they serve Shrimp and Grits with Fried Green Tomatoes for both lunch and dinner (different portions) because the the dish is so popular.
A couple of other favorites include their steaks and their Peach Pork Tenderloin, served with Peach BBQ Sauce. She says the Crab and Asparagus Salad is also popular for dinner.
For breakfast, folks enjoy Eggs Benedict, Omelettes, Bacon, Egg & Cheese Croissant, Bananas Foster French Toast, and a number of pastries.
As far as bakery items — Croissants offers 16 different types of cake daily, 20 other different kinds of pastries and cupcakes.
The most popular dessert item on the menu for people to order is the Sampler Platter — “You can get three small pieces of different cakes, allowing you to taste-test more than one.
“The more popular ones are Triple Chocolate Mousse and the Coconut Cake. The Coconut Cake has been popular since day one of the restaurant.”
Heidi is extremely proud of Andrew Fortner, the executive chef who has been with her since last summer. “Andrew is awesome, mild-mannered and great in the kitchen.”
She is proud that they often have interns at the bistro from the area culinary schools and currently have one from the Culinary Institute of America. “It’s exciting,” says Heidi, “to help someone develop their passion for cooking and baking.”
ACCENT couldn’t help but ask Heidi about a few of her own favorite meals. She laughed and said, “My favorite meal would be sitting outside on my porch with having takeout from here.”
When pressed about what that choice might be, she said she loves the Bistro Chicken, but she also loves their seafood dishes.
“My favorite dessert?” she pondered? “I don’t have a favorite — I love the Blueberry-Raspberry Tarts, or the Triple Chocolate Mousse, or probably my favorite is the one you like the best — Salted Caramel Cake!”
It was then I knew we were destined to meet in person!
Chapters of the Bonjour Y’all cookbook include: “History of Croissants Bistro & Bakery,” “Libations,” “Breads,” “Starters,” “The Main,” “Brunch,” Cookies,” “Encore,” “Pantry” and “The Future of Food In Myrtle Beach.”