Why you should care
Because you likely haven’t dunked baguette balls into your morning café before.
There are many ways to come out to one’s grandmother. A heartfelt one-on-one, a personal letter, dispatching another family member to do it for you. For Richard Legay, the right way was to open a bakery specializing in penis-shaped bread and be the subject of a story on national TV.
“For me, it was like an explosion, to say to the world: I’m gay and I’m proud to be gay,” says Legay of the bold move and subsequent coverage.
That was 17 years ago, and while his grandmother wasn’t pleased then, she later came around. In the meantime, Legay — yes, that’s his real name, and he comes from four generations of bakers — has become a beloved figure in the Marais, in central Paris. His unmissable shop window is decorated with penis-shaped brioche, penis-shaped baguettes and penis-shaped tarts. He’s made penis-shaped croissants, he says, but it’s too much work to do every day. In January, you can find a penis-shaped galette des rois, France’s traditional holiday cake.
… tourists-in-the-know will often make a stop expressly to see the bready penises …
Before opening his bakery, the not-publicly-out Legay worked for a decade in a bank. His father had run a bakery in Nantes, near a military barracks, and a long-running family joke involved soldiers’ requests for genitalia-shaped treats. Around the turn of the millennium, Legay and his brother decided to make the request a reality and opened Legay Choc in Paris. “I said to my brother, we can’t do that in Nantes,” Legay explains. “We have to do it in Paris, in the gay district.”
When they opened, he was worried that the other bakeries would resent the gimmick, but there was no such animosity. People flocked, seeing it as a joke, and now tourists-in-the-know will often make a stop expressly to see the bready penises (which taste exactly the same and use the same recipe as a standard baguette tradition). Those who want to take one home as a souvenir can grab a specially preserved (and inedible) bread penis, bedecked in a hand-knitted hat and scarf for €5.
Like many historically gay neighborhoods in cities across the world, the Marais still shows its pride. The sidewalks and many of the businesses are decorated with rainbows, gay bars are more common than in the rest of the city and guidebooks still point out historic gay landmarks. But, Legay says, many long-running business (and longtime residents) are getting priced out of the market. The Marais is now considered prime real estate for big brands that want to capitalize on its classic French vibe, and Legay says the gay bars, restaurants and even the LGBT library are closing one after another. “It’s changing. I’m quite sure that in five or 10 years, there won’t be any gay bars in the district,” he laments.
Pro tip from Monsieur Legay: Keep an eye on the 19th arrondissement, still relatively inexpensive, which he says may be becoming the new gay district. But — while Legay is in the process of a hush-hush expansion to an as-yet-undisclosed location — it won’t have les baguettes magiques.