If a person has never tasted cheesecake, they are in for a delicious surprise, but Michel Lefebvre had to wait until he moved to the United States to get that treat.
Michel and Sylvie Lefebvre are Parisians, both of whose fathers had butcher shops. You could say that Michel got his start in the food business when he worked for his father to make pocket money for vacations.
To please his parents, Michel studied engineering at the College des Ingenieurs on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, and made a career in the metal fabrication business, eventually forming his own company.
Michel and Sylvie met when they were both students. Since their marriage, they have taken on many challenges, but a constant has been their partnership in life and in business.
For their 25th anniversary, the couple took a trip to the United States. “We visited the national parks, met many nice people, and fell in love with the US,” he remembers.
“We went back home to France, sold our house, and moved to Florida and later to California. We were so happy with the weather, the wine, the food, everything about it.”
Trying to replicate their business in France didn’t work out in the US, so they enlisted the help of a broker to find a business to buy. “For some reason, he came to us with this small cheesecake company owned by a couple who wanted to retire,” says Michel. “I had never tasted cheesecake – I didn’t even know what it was. I discovered that it is very, very good!”
Michel and Sylvie had to learn very fast and work very hard. At first they did everything themselves, but since then the staff that has joined them have become like family. “They trust us and we trust them – an excellent way to run a business.”
A big part of Les Desserts business is theme parks, both in Southern California and in Florida, plus Line Cruises. Their oldest son Sebastien joined the company to run the Florida operation.
“We created the first gluten-free cheesecake, and as a result we received a letter of commendation from the Celiac Association, thanking us for this service to their members. We also created too one of the first low carbohydrate cheesecake with just sugar from the cream cheese. Those unique features of our business helped to open the path to US Citizenship.”
So, not only did cheesecake change their professional lives, but it also provided a path to US citizenship, international exposure, and an introduction to many famous chefs. Because of Les Desserts, Michel and Sylvie have had the opportunity to meet many famous chefs. “We were very proud to meet Paul Bocuse and his son Gerald at the Epcot Center in Orlando. We were even able to take Les Desserts cheesecakes to Hong Kong, as part of a State of California pavilion.”
“We owe so much to cheesecake,” Michel says gratefully.