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Omaha Magazine

Young Pastry Chef Works Wonders at Le Petit Paris

May 27, 2021 04:01PM ● By Apoorvaa “Apps” Bichu
pastry chef Austin Weyhrich sits in kitchen

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

It’s 6 a.m., and Austin Weyhrich has entered Le Petit Paris French Bakery, eager to get down to business and start creating desserts. The bakery opens at 7 a.m., and he tries to come in at least half an hour to one hour earlier, depending on how much work is left from the day before.

Weyhrich performs various tasks, ranging from filling eclairs to portioning, icing, and decorating cakes. He then reviews the orders that need to be made. A 72-hour notice is usually needed before ordering because some of the cakes need between one and two days of preparation. After completing the in-house and to-go orders, he checks if he’s running low on any products, and, based on that inventory, plans his production of the cakes, eclairs, and tarts.

It’s different from his previous work at his father’s business, which entailed air conditioning installation and ventilation ductwork. “I didn’t have any previous experience in the trade so I helped with what I could,” Weyhrich said.

The young baker is from Fremont. He commuted to Omaha for a couple of years, but moved to the city full-time in February so he could work while taking classes at the same time. He started at Le Petit Paris at age 19 with no prior baking experience or culinary training besides home baking. He picked up skills on the job. 

Weyhrich works for Cedric Fichepain, a French chef and owner of Le Petit Paris and Le Voltaire French Restaurant in West Omaha. Cedric married Desarae Mueller of Fremont in 1995, and they lived in France before moving to Omaha in 1997. He fulfilled his dream of opening French-themed restaurant Le Voltaire in 2001, and opened Le Petit Paris next to it in 2013.

“French baking is very traditional, and based on precision, since you have to weigh everything right down to the gram, as opposed to just weighing in cups,” he said. Weyhrich looked for a pastry chef position at a young age because of his love for baking and French cuisine. 

Le Petit Paris appealed to Wehyrich because he admired Fichepain’s work. He sent Fichepain an email applying for the job, and followed that with a second email a week later. A phone call was placed around that same time. 

“I called him back, and said you know what? You’re going to come work here for two weeks if you want, and in two weeks, we’ll find out if you are ready to work,” Fichepain said.

Weyhrich accepted the challenge, and learned quickly, becoming what Fichepain called “a big asset” to the bakery. “He was very serious, and meticulous, which is important because as a pastry chef, you need to be meticulous. You need to be patient and have good organizational skills.” Fichepain offered Weyhrich the position, a week after starting.

He is inspired by other pastry chefs such as Nathaniel Reid, a 2019 and 2020 semifinalist for the James Beard Outstanding Baker Award who owns Nathaniel Reid Bakery in St Louis. 

Weyhrich particularly enjoyed baking an order for a wedding in which he made three 50-piece croquembouches. This French dessert, often served at weddings, is composed of many small profiterole cream puffs towered one on top of the other and glued with caramel to create an impressive cone. Weyhrich was time-bound to bake the order by noon, and he described the four-hour long baking process as “a lot of hard work.”

Fichepain, originally from France, has taken his staff to his homeland a couple of times to experience immersion in French culture and to taste French cuisine. He said many of his employees have worked with him for several years, and the trip to France serves to show them his roots and the recipes he grew up making and eating. “French cooking and baking has a long history, and so I’m very glad to offer the experience of traveling to the staff,” Fichepain said.

Weyhrich traveled with Fichepain and the other employees to the northeastern parts of France, including Dijon and Paris, for two weeks in 2019. He saw French wineries, bakeries, and restaurants, and caught France’s agricultural exposition, which took place at the same time and included culinary and farming exhibitions. Weyhrich described the time spent in France as an “incredible” experience. 

Weyhrich said he’s excited for the future. “I’d like to work, and gain as much experience as I can, in different areas of baking,” he said, mentioning he wants to expand into baking more bread, since he has more experience creating desserts. 

He plans to pursue this expansion of his baking skills by enrolling in the MCC culinary school this fall. 

Visit lepetitparisfrenchbakery.com for more information about Fichepain’s bakery, including Weyhrich’s work.

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

Photo by Bill Sitzmann