Food Fight Over French Pastry Cart Seeking to Set Up in SoHo

By Andrea Swalec on December 3, 2012 7:31am 

MANHATTAN — Bon appétit?

Upper East Side-based baker Céline Legros wants to introduce SoHo to the French pastry the canelé, but some residents wish she would take her gourmet treats elsewhere. 

Legros' company Canelé by Céline was selected earlier this year by the Parks Department to set up a food cart in SoHo's Petrosino Square in spring 2013, but boosters of the triangular park say the cart would hurt the over-saturated area by bringing commerce into a currently vendor-free park. 

"Canelé is a unique pastry from Bordeaux, France," said Legros, 37, explaining the canelé to the uninitiated. "It's caramelized on the outside and moist on the inside, with almost a crème brûlée filling." 

The business attorney-turned-baker said she thought SoHo seemed like the perfect place for the sweets, which last December the James Beard Foundation called a "food trend to watch out for."

"In SoHo there is really a community of gourmet foodies who like the finest refined things," she said. 

But the community group Friends of Petrosino Square, which objected to the food cart plan after it was presented to Community Board 2 last week, said it would like to keep businesses out of the park at the intersection of Spring and Lafayette streets. 

"Petrosino Park is the only open public space in our neighborhood that remains free of commerce," the group said Friday in a statement. "We would love to keep it that way."

The cart, which Legros is designing now, would be approximately 6 feet long and 4 feet wide. Cart workers would be responsible for cleaning up nearby trash created by the operation, she said. 

The pastries —which are currently sold online and at locations, including Nespresso's shops on Prince Street and Madison Avenue — would be available for about $1 each in flavors such as vanilla, dark chocolate, rosewater, salted caramel and orange. They would be sold individually and in boxes of four, six, 10 and 24.

In addition to canelés, the cart would sell financiers, the small, almond-flavored French tea cakes. 

A Parks Department spokesman said the agency will work with Legros and community members to reach a solution in the park, where it seeks to provide specialty food options "besides the standard hot dog and ice cream carts."

"We anticipate further discussion with the community board and members of the community before deciding on whether to issue a permit for a specialty cart at this location," the spokesman said in a statement.

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