In the early hours of the morning, Abdul Latif Alrashoudi was deep in the midst of a delicate operation.
With steady hands, he executed each movement with the precision of a seasoned surgeon. However, in this tranquil corner of Paris, his instruments were not scalpels and sutures, but whisks and mixing bowls.
For this Saudi Arabian doctor, the hum of the oven and the scent of rising dough held a pull far stronger than the sterile glare of the operating theatre. Orthopedic surgery, with its rigid precision, was a path laid out before him – yet it was in the art of baking, his true calling, that Latif found his sanctuary.
Last September, after years of hard graft, Latif proudly opened the doors to his own Parisian bakery, LÂM, on the trendy Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, just a short walk from the lively Place de la Republique. “I wanted something in the North Marais where there were expats, tourists, and locals, and I find the street very cool,” he said.
The bakery has quickly emerged as a firm favourite among the sweet-toothed of the city, thanks to its flavourful Middle East-inspired pastries such as Latif’s signature halva cookies and black lemon buns. A focus on high-quality coffee further sets the bakery apart in a crowded marketplace – after all, Latif admits, LÂM is not merely a bakery but “a coffee shop owned by a pastry chef”.
Yet the journey from Riyadh to the Republic was by no means straightforward. With no scholarship in sight to attend the French capital’s Le Cordon Bleu school of pastry, Latif was forced to cast his dreams aside for years. His weekends were spent crafting dinner parties for friends, offering sweet respite from the intense medical world.
The tide turned in 2019 when Saudi Arabia’s diversification efforts ushered in a new era of opportunities, and a group of passionate bakers were selected to study at Le Cordon Bleu. Latif was gratefully among the group, just in time for his 30th birthday, and soon he was on the way to Paris where his scrubs were replaced by an apron.
Not even the sudden disruption of Covid could deter Latif from pursuing his path. After a year of intense studies, while many of his Saudi peers returned home, Latif, the budding pâtissier, earned an internship at the renowned La Tour d’Argent restaurant.
Yet his Parisian chapter was just beginning, as he stepped into his role as pastry chef at the Saint-Germain-based café Treize au Jardin. After learning the ropes there, Latif ventured into a catering business with a close friend and conducted a thorough market analysis, all of which culminated in his ambition to launch his own bakery.
Today, that dream is a reality, much to the delight of dessert-lovers across the city. Complementing Coutume’s specialty coffee are Latif’s exquisite cakes, featuring flavours like chocolate tahini, pistachio fleur d’oranger,trois vanilles with a hint of rose, gluten-free chocolate cardamom, and his unique take on a cinnamon roll – the roule au citron noir.
The menu also offers savoury delights such as zaatar feta buns and gourmet quiches, all served in a light and airy space that provides welcome respite from the busy Parisian streets. But regardless of what’s on the menu, it’s clear that every appetising option is baked not just with surgical precision, but with purpose and passion – all by a Saudi Arabian doctor who traded in his stethoscope for a spatula, and the operating room for an oven.