Those walking near 4712 Hastings Street in the morning may find themselves drawn by the near irresistible scent of croissants and chocolate to Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie.
"The neighbours have told us they can smell the croissants when I start baking in the morning," owner Christophe Bonzon says.
Ventilation from the back of the business, where the baking and chocolate-making is done, goes directly to the front of the store, according to Christophe's wife, Jess Bonzon, who covers the retail side of the business.
The dŽcor is simple - white walls, a counter and seats facing the window and two interior windows that give customers a glimpse at how the treats are made. The front counter is filled with cakes, handmade chocolates and croissants - regular, chocolate and double-baked maple pecan - as well as pain au chocolat and more.
Christophe, who was previously a pastry chef at Cin Cin Restaurant in Vancouver, has always wanted to run his own business, he says.
"A long time ago, my parents owned their own business as well," he explains. "When I was working for other people, I always thought that I'd do it. I wanted to be my own boss."
He developed his passion for quality sweets making chocolate truffles with his mother, Christophe says, and later he decided to become a pastry chef.
Christophe and Jess met in Switzerland and moved to Australia for two years before coming to Canada, they say.
The shop opened on Tuesday and thus far, business has been good, Jess says.
"Every night, we've almost sold all the individual cakes," Christophe adds. "The chocolate is doing well as well."
They chose to open in the Heights because they live nearby, the couple says, and because they saw a lack of such shops in Burnaby.
There are pastry chefs and chocolatiers setting up businesses in Vancouver, Christophe says, but not over the border yet.
They like Burnaby because of its proximity to both Vancouver and to nature, Jessica says, adding the couple enjoys hiking.
They are currently preparing for Easter - which, in Europe, is the second busiest season for chocolatiers after Christmas, they say. In addition to the traditional Easter bunnies and chicks, Christophe has created a series of modernist chocolate egg sculptures in various sizes. The store's signature piece has three large eggs stacked atop each other with four smaller eggs attached - brightly coloured green and yellow eggs add vibrancy to the piece - with white and milk chocolate detailed accents. The scrumptious-looking sculpture has more in common with an abstract masterpiece than a common chocolate bar.
Even the seemingly simplest fare at the shop has an abundance of flavour and artistry. The double-baked croissant with maple syrup and pecans has a myriad of textures - the crispy, buttery exterior, the softness inside, and at its depths, a comforting mix of maple and pecan.
Each piece sampled by the NOW had similar complexities - the cinnamon truffles have a thin but firm shell encasing a light, almost whipped centre of chocolate mixed with cinnamon.
The chocolate caramel mandarin mousse has a thin layer of mandarin jelly on the outside, mandarin infused chocolate mousse on the inside, the warm sweetness of caramel, and a pleasantly surprising layer of mandarin confection in the middle.
Christophe does not use a lot of sugar in his creations, he says, preferring to rely on the natural sweetness in the nuts and fruits he uses. He also prefers to use seasonal ingredients - apples and mandarins in the winter, for instance, instead of importing out-of-season fruit.
The effort Christophe puts into his creations indicates his desire to provide something more than a simple treat - each piece is meant to be enjoyed by a combination of senses.
"I think it's important to be different," he says.
Chez Christophe is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more on the shop, go to the Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie page on Facebook.