If a director from Bollywood made a film about the Samandari/Avanzo families from France, the audience would dismiss it out of hand as being far too filmy. However, it is a tale that ends with a fairytale patisserie in Khan Market, selling light-as-air macarons bursting with fruit flavours, and baguettes and flaky croissants. It starts with a tentative move to India.
When Caroline Avanzo and her husband moved to Delhi from France, they had absolutely no idea how their lives were going to become inextricably linked to the new city. Six years down the line, the couple and their children have been joined by her parents, her 98 year old painter grandmother and her brother, Laurent.
Laurent first arrived in Delhi for a job in his field of work: management, but soon realized that he wanted to set up something on his own, and so conceptualized the idea of a patisserie and boulangerie. Nothing unusual in that, you may say, except that hardly any raw material is available in India, except for sugar. Just about everything else has to come from France, whether it is the machinery for the bakery or the butter and cream for the pastries. Even the almond powder for the macaron comes from France.
L’Opera is a quintessentially family-run operation. If Laurent Samandari is busy at the factory, his parents fuss over the displays in the store. If Caroline Avanzo takes charge of the French Embassy outlet, there are other family members steamlining the supply chain from the factory to the outlets across the city.
L’Opera has turned out to be a win-win situation for everyone from Germaine Landoy-Hakim, the youthful painter who uprooted herself from her country after she turned 90, to Laurent and Caroline the siblings who have found a new life for themselves, to the gliteratti of Delhi, who can enjoy the best pastries of Paris without procuring a visa!