The Story of La Colmar

The Secret of La Colmar

Meet the Staff

The Story of La Colmar

Yannick and Ana Brendel are proud to welcome you to La Colmar, the culmination of their combined passion for food, family, and community. Yannick is an award-winning, third-generation French baker and pastry chef who came to America to realize his dream of opening his own restaurant. Ana developed her love of food while working alongside her grandmother and learned at a young age the power of food to bring people together. Now, Yannick and Ana are thrilled to provide an experience unlike any other.

Tucked in France’s Alsace region, less than twenty miles from the German border, is the town of Colmar. Founded more than a thousand years ago, Colmar has been described as equal parts Medieval, Renaissance, and Victorian; an amalgamation of twelve centuries, set amidst the modern world. It was here, among flour mills and bread dough, that Yannick Brendel was born.

Yannick, circled, and classmates visiting his father's bakery.

As a third-generation baker and pastry chef, Yannick likes to joke that he was “born in a bag of flour.” His father, a passionate baker who spent a lifetime honing his skills, owned three Alsatian bakeries where Yannick would make some of his first memories. He would help make bread and pastries and tarte flambé, a local flatbread dish made with onion, bacon, gruyere cheese, and crème fraiche. He would help measure flour, mix dough, and clean up at the end of the day.

Yannick quickly developed a deep passion for food. “I love food. Even as a boy I recognized that it had the ability to connect you with your ancestors. Though they’re gone, you can taste the life and times of your relatives through specific culinary experiences. There’s nothing like it.” This is particularly true in Alsace, a region whose food incorporates elements from neighboring Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Unsurprisingly, Yannick decided at a young age to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. His father set up opportunities to work in local bakeries, places he knew would prove challenging and test his son’s skills and determination. Yannick flourished, and at the age of 16, he began entering local baking and pastry competitions, winning both prizes and recognition.

By the time he was 20, Yannick gained entry into one of the most prestigious competitions in France, the Meilleur Ouvreier de France (MOF). Held every four years, the MOF draws together the finest craftsmen in the country to compete within their respective disciplines. Thousands of French pastry chefs began the tournament, but by the final competition a mere five remained, including Yannick. On the day of the competition, Yannick baked for eight straight hours under the ever-present eyes of two judges. After the last pastry was tasted and the final points tallied, Yannick was awarded second place.

After working for a few years more in France, Yannick decided to finally fulfill one of his life’s dreams. He packed his things and booked a one-way ticket to America. Passionate about America and eager to assimilate into his new country, he settled in Miami, “an amazing city with food as vibrant as its culture.” With only the English he could pull from the well-worn pocket dictionary, Yannick began working in various Miami restaurants and bakeries, learning the culture and the market. Not long after, he met a young woman with a passion for food that rivaled his own.

“Our first date was at an Argentinian steakhouse,” remembers Ana. “Yannick was funny, sweet, interesting, and passionate.” She told him about growing up in a Dominican family, learning to cook when she was eight years old, and her grandmother showcasing her love for her family through the food she made. With help from his dictionary, Yannick told her about his childhood, his passion for food, and his ultimate goal of opening a restaurant of his own. Ana, in what she now remembers as a bold move for a first date, suggested that Yannick wait to open his restaurant. “I told him that he needed to truly learn the culture first. He had to learn about America and American tastes.”

Ana’s boldness must have worked because they soon fell in love, got married, and started a family. They lived happily and moved to Naples where Yannick took a position as the head chef for a catering company, while Ana worked and returned to school to pursue a degree in psychology. As the years went by, the responsibilities of raising three children and the relative comfort of a routine pushed their dream of opening their own restaurant further and further back into their minds. What they needed was a spark.

For them, the spark came in 2012, when the family spent nearly a year in Colmar with Yannick's family. “I had never been fully immersed in Yannick’s pastry world,” remembers Ana. “It wasn’t until I saw him in his hometown, baking alongside his father, that I truly recognized his talent and passion.” While traveling, Ana also began to understand just how wonderful and unique the food was in that part of France. "The food in Colmar takes inspiration from so many counties; it's truly unlike anything else. It suddenly became clear just why Yannick always talked about his hometown." Together they decided that Yannick could never fulfill his full potential until he could be his own boss and that it was time to bring their dream to life.

Ana, Yannick, Ed, and Sue. 

“Was there any reason we couldn’t do this? Absolutely not,” says Ana. “We just kept going back to that motto over and over.” Yannick developed the concept and Ana drafted a business plan. Together, they began seeking business partners. Months went by with nothing but polite declines and unreturned calls. Meanwhile, just a few miles down the road, a couple happened to be seeking out the exact opportunity that Yannick and Ana were offering. 

Ed and Sue Mullen share a deep passion for their community: in 2015, they founded the Pan-Florida Challenge (PFC), a charity bike ride that has raised more than $1 million to feed hungry kids throughout south Florida, contributing to their health and ability to succeed in school. Another passion is good food; food that doesn’t just sustain people physically, but contributes to their overall happiness. This means ingredients that are fresh and locally-sourced and an atmosphere that promotes relaxation and conviviality in the face of today’s hustle and bustle. For years, Ed and Sue considered the idea of opening a restaurant that would contribute to health of their community the way the PFC has, but just couldn’t find the right people to join them in making their vision a reality.

For months, the Brendels and the Mullens were ships passing in the night until, by happy happenstance, they were introduced by a mutual friend. Ed and Sue were instantly moved by the Yannick and Ana’s story and passion for traditional cooking; Ana and Yannick were taken-in by Ed and Sue’s love of healthy food and community. They immediately clicked. Throughout the process of building La Colmar, they have become like family to one another, developing their initial interest in food into lifelong friendships.

Today, La Colmar stands as a testament to what can be accomplished through the love of wonderful food, quality ingredients, ancestral techniques, and people.

The Secret of La Colmar

Beginning in the 1950s, American flour began a steady decline in quality. Bleaching the flour became common practice and additives and preservatives found their way into the processing plants. The gluten levels increased. So did the amount of impurities. To make truly high-quality bread and pastries, head chef Yannick Brendel knew he had to find the finest flour, and so he turned to his home country of France.

Yannick and Ana’s combined expertise and passion were the sparks that ignited La Colmar, but they had one thing left to find: flour.

Beginning in the 1950s, American flour began a steady decline in quality. Bleaching the flour became common practice and additives and preservatives found their way into the processing plants. The gluten levels increased. So did the amount of impurities. “For centuries, bread was the way to nourish one’s body,” explains Yannick, “but bread made with this type of flour is lifeless. Lifeless.”

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To make truly high-quality bread and pastries, Yannick knew he had to find the finest flour, and so he turned to his home country of France. With its long culinary tradition, it’s unsurprising that France has spent hundreds of years studying flour, developing the best processing techniques, and creating the world’s most robust grading system. All French flour is graded on a scale from one to ten. To be ranked a ten, the flour must be completely free of impurities and have the perfect amount of protein and humidity.

“Ten is the best of the best, and that’s what we’re bringing to Naples,” says Yannick. And when it came to deciding from which mill to source their flour, there was only one option; the same mill where Yannick got his flour for the Meilleur Ouvrier de France competition, where his father got his flour for pastries, and where his grandfather got his flour for bread.

“We are bringing this flour because we want to make a difference in people's relationship with food. We want our children, our friends, and our neighbors to eat and taste the very best.”




Meet The Staff Yannick

YANNICK BRENDEL

HEAD CHEF & CO-OWNER

Born to a family of bakers in the French town of Colmar, Yannick spent some of his earliest days making bread and pastries alongside his father and was a finalist in France's vaunted Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) baking competition. Yannick's story would take him from Colmar, to Miami, and finally to Naples, where he has finally decided to realize his dream of opening his own bakery and bistro, just like his father and grandfather before him.

Meet The Staff Ana

ANA BRENDEL

RESTAURANT MANAGER & CO-OWNER

Ana's passion for food began when she was just a girl cooking alongside her grandmother. They would prepare delicious meals for their large family and the joy those meals brought people would leave an indelible mark on Ana. She is thrilled to be able to pass her incredible enthusiasm along to everyone who visits La Colmar.

Meet The Staff Ed And Sue

ED and SUE MULLEN

CO-OWNERS

Ed and Sue Mullen are the founders of the Pan-Florida Challenge for Hungry Kids, a 180-mile charity bicycle ride. In 2016, its second year, the PFC raised $1.1 million dollars to feed hungry kids in south Florida. Ed is Chairman of a local real estate development company, Beacon Real Estate Partners, and the Chairman of Beacon Private Equity Partners in Boston. The Mullen family are all foodies and have had a longstanding dream to bring fine French food to Naples.

Meet the Staff



Meet The Staff Yannick

YANNICK BRENDEL

HEAD CHEF & CO-OWNER

Born to a family of bakers in the French town of Colmar, Yannick spent some of his earliest days making bread and pastries alongside his father and was a finalist in France's vaunted Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) baking competition. Yannick's story would take him from Colmar, to Miami, and finally to Naples, where he has finally decided to realize his dream of opening his own bakery and bistro, just like his father and grandfather before him.

Meet The Staff Ana

ANA BRENDEL

RESTAURANT MANAGER & CO-OWNER

Ana's passion for food began when she was just a girl cooking alongside her grandmother. They would prepare delicious meals for their large family and the joy those meals brought people would leave an indelible mark on Ana. She is thrilled to be able to pass her incredible enthusiasm along to everyone who visits La Colmar.

Meet The Staff Ed And Sue

ED and SUE MULLEN

CO-OWNERS

Ed and Sue Mullen are the founders of the Pan-Florida Challenge for Hungry Kids, a 180-mile charity bicycle ride. In 2016, its second year, the PFC raised $1.1 million dollars to feed hungry kids in south Florida. Ed is Chairman of a local real estate development company, Beacon Real Estate Partners, and the Chairman of Beacon Private Equity Partners in Boston. The Mullen family are all foodies and have had a longstanding dream to bring fine French food to Naples.

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