No matter where you’re from, you probably have fond childhood memories of a bakery and its comforting smells. It’ll all come back to you when you step into Boulangerie Bouchard. You’ll be engulfed by all sorts of wonderful smells: bread, of course, but also a fabulous array of other sweet and salty baked goods.
To get to the Boulangerie Bouchard, take the ferry from Les Éboulements. On the trek down to the wharf, take in the beautiful scene before you. Watch as the morning mist slowly rises off the water, gradually revealing Isle-aux-Coudres. It’s simply magical.
Nestled on the river bank for the last 75 years, the bakery is a veritable institution here. “To me, a bakery is a town’s heart and soul. Just like a school,” said Noëlle-Ange Harvey, who has owned the bakery for the last 15 years. Indeed, Chemin des Coudriers on Isle-aux-Coudres starts bustling as soon as the bakery opens. The bell announcing the arrival of new customers sounds like a church bell, and the phrase “give us our daily bread” definitely resonates with the owner, who is strong of faith.
There’s also a certain familiarity about Noëlle-Ange. She welcomes you warmly, as she would a friend. Some customers even call her ‘Auntie’ though they’re not related! “Over the years, I’ve seen expectant mothers and then watched as their kids have grown up,” she said, eluding to how much time has gone by. “I love it when they come in just to smell the bread, or to pick up their pastries or a molasses tart. There are many human bonds forged here.”
Noëlle-Ange is a lifelong islander and she knows a lot about Isle-aux-Coudres. In her affable, enthusiastic way, she vividly recounts stories, tales and fond memories about the area. As for her background with the bakery, she says: “At 53, I walked into the Wizard of Oz rainbow and asked myself: am I being true to myself? Then the bakery came along and… Bang! I’ve been here ever since.”
Of dreams and faith
Her purchase of Boulangerie Bouchard was a dream come true. “On April 22, 1997, I dreamed that I was buying the bakery. In my dream, I was working behind a lottery machine. A man came up to me and said, ‘Madam, I just bought a winning ticket and I’m going to help you pay your mortgage.’ I woke up, shook my husband awake and said that we had to buy the bakery.” But at the time, Boulangerie Bouchard was owned by a man called Léonard and it wasn’t for sale. Through sheer perseverance and faith, Noëlle-Ange eventually got her
bakery. “It took me 10 years,” she said. “Every July 26, on the Feast of Saint Anne, I would stop by to see Léonard and pick up my rolls. I continued to appeal to the heavens above, and one day it worked. I signed the documents for the purchase on July 26.”
Boulangerie Bouchard was already firmly established at that time, and it continued to flourish. The employees are very loyal to the business. On visiting the bakery, their team spirit and energy are evident as they greet customers, produce dozens of loaves of bread, and prepare soups and meat pies. “The strength of a bakery lies in its teamwork,” said Noëlle-Ange. “My baker has worked here for 47 years. Some of the other employees for 20. And newcomers to the team bring other product ideas, for vegetarians and vegans, like products made from potato flour.”
The bakery’s forebears
As a member of Charlevoix’s Flavour Trail and a municipal councillor, the bakery’s owner works with the region’s producers — for the veal for her meat pies, among other things— and makes it her duty to promote the gastronomic riches of this region, which she would never leave for anything in the world. Noëlle-Ange’s cousins produce grain on their ancestors’ farm for the flour used in the bakery’s wheat bread.
These forbears were the ones behind Boulangerie Bouchard’s famous speciality, the “pâté croche”—salty, comforting individual meat (or vegetarian) pies. Noëlle-Ange takes great pleasure in talking about her origins and her beloved Isle-aux-Coudres. “Our grandparents would canoe down the St. Lawrence to Baie-Saint-Paul or Petite-Rivière-Saint-François. For their meal, they would take a meat pie that they would divide up when they got there, but it
always got crushed on the trip. One day, Grandpa said to his wife, ‘Why don’t you just flatten them right away into hand-size pieces and we’ll each have one!’”
Today, people come from all over to taste the “pâtés croches” of Isle-aux-Coudres.