When Oscar Trujillo was a teenager, he took a part-time job cleaning tables and floors in a Harlem bakery. La Tropezienne, founded by the late baker and pastry chef Roger Bransol in 1989, was the apprenticeship and proving ground for the young Colombian-émigré Trujillo.
Today at 36, he is the heart and soul of Ooh La La Bakery, an authentic — and delicious — boulangerie, patisserie and viennoiserie in the heart of downtown Wheaton.
At the corner of University Boulevard and Grandview Avenue, Ooh La La serves only baked-from-scratch breads and pastries — all made on the premises under Trujillo’s exacting standards, which he learned from Lyon-born master baker Bransol.
The attractive, family-owned Wheaton bakery opened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, in November 2020, but Trujillo’s cousin and the bakery’s business manager, Luis Velasquez, 38, noted that the bakery/cafe had been in development for nearly five years before the doors opened.
Stepping into Ooh La La, visitors are greeted by a glass case filled with enticing treats ranging from the best-selling and to-die-for croissants to colorful Parisian macarons and fruit tarts, personal-sized cheesecakes, Napoleons — plain and Chantilly — eclairs, both chocolate and mocha, opera cake, strawberry shortcake and, for American tastes, a big glass jar of chocolate chip cookies.
The authentic and flakey sweet croissants come in plain, chocolate, strawberry, blueberry, peach, almond, cream cheese and cinnamon. Croissants, according to Velasquez, are by far the patisserie’s best-selling item and often disappear well before lunch. In fact, the owner/manager admits the chocolate croissant is his favorite.
But Trujillo doesn’t eschew the savory tastes for his growing customer base. Ooh La La offers ham and cheese and spinach and cheese croissants, a variety of quiches from the classic quiche Lorraine to spinach and Swiss and sun-dried tomato and mozzarella varieties in both personal and full sizes.
And, the house-made sandwiches on house-baked breads and rolls include traditional Croque Monsieur and Croque Madam, plus tuna salad, egg salad, ham, turkey, smoked salmon and panini options for lunch, along with custom-made egg sandwiches for breakfast. Not to mention a rustic chicken pot pie.
The bakery has widely spaced café tables arranged for waiter service in the sunny, window-filled location. And the coffee? Colombian, medium roast, of course, Velasquez said with a smile.
One surprise for both Velasquez and Trujillo has been that breads haven’t sold as well as the partners expected. Baguettes and multigrain loafs are offered daily, but instead of making 50 or 75, Trujillo bakes just about a dozen or two. They realized that sour dough and other kinds of loaves only sell on weekends.
But the pastries? They disappear quickly, so come early for croissants, turnovers and other flakey delights. Chocolate mousse is another customer — and this writer’s — favorite, and requests for mango and passion fruit mousse have added to the delicacy’s popularity.
As well, Trujillo is happy to amend to his repertoire of classic French pastries and, at the requests of customers, the bakery now regularly sells alfajores, a Latin American cookie-like treat filled with caramel and topped with confectioner’s sugar. Other customer-requested offerings include the passion fruit mousse, and lovingly moist trés leches cake, a Latin American delicacy featuring white cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream.
Velasquez believes the bakery’s pastries are so popular because they are not sugar-filled and extremely sweet. “Our customers have mentioned several times how much they like [our pastries] because they are not full of sugar,” he said. “They have more flavor. Often sugar is something that you use to cover the flavor of something. Sugary pastry is not really good, but ours are low in sugar, so you can really taste the flavor and they taste like what you’re eating.”
Trujillo’s baker’s hours are demanding. He arrives between 8:30 and 9:30 in the evening and, with his small staff, bakes all night, finishing up at about 6 a.m. Velasquez and the counter and kitchen staff come in to open the shop at 8 a.m. through 7 p.m. “This is a humble family business,” noted Velasquez, who lives in Rockville. “We’re small so we have had to do everything ourselves.”
Velasquez is looking throughout the county for a second space with an eye on expanding Ooh La La. He’s not sure where the next Ooh La La will be located, but loves the Wheaton location. “One thing that I really like about the Wheaton area is that it’s full of different restaurants from all kinds of different cultures…. We have Chinese restaurants, we have Latino restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, Thai restaurants, Ethiopian … but we saw the opportunity: There wasn’t a traditional French bakery. Sure, you can you go to Potomac or Chevy Chase and find a French bakery, but we saw the opportunity and, despite many people telling us, ‘Oh, that’s not going to work,’ we’ve done well so far.”
But foremost, Velasquez, who earned his business degree in Colombia and a master’s degree in health-care administration at Catholic University in Washington, attributes the bakery’s success to his cousin: “Oscar is the big figure here. He’s the master. There is no bakery without him.”
Ooh La La Bakery
2600 University Blvd., Wheaton.
Open 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesday
9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.