Le French Rooster Shares Update

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Le French Rooster in Burbank is currently open on a limited schedule Wedneday through Friday. (Photo Courtesy Le French Rooster)
Le French Rooster in Burbank is currently open on a limited schedule Wednesday through Friday. (Photo Courtesy Jorge Antonio Jimenez)

For years, the Burbank community has long been fans of Le French Rooster, the authentic French cafe located on Olive Avenue, a few blocks east of Buena Vista Street. The cafe has been serving up freshly made desserts, pastries, sandwiches, crepes, coffees and a host of French delights since May 2019.

Owned and operated by husband and wife team of Cindy Quijada and Alexandre Steimer, Le French Rooster’s daily operations hit a major snag near the end of 2022, as the couple encountered visa issues that prevented their return to the United States.

While the couple has always closed the shop for holiday season, when January 2023 rolled around, Quijada and Steimer were still in France and had no other choice but to open Le French Rooster for limited hours with a small team of dedicated employees.

Many Burbankers feared the cafe would close earlier this year, but Le French Rooster has managed to hang on and keep making the desserts and dishes that have made an impact on customers. The cafe is listed for sale, as Quijada and Steimer may need a long time to renew their U.S. visa after being initially being banned for three years from the U.S. for following incorrect legal advice regarding their immigration application.

They plan to find a new place to settle down and build a new cafe in the future, once they are able to settle ongoing business commitments in the U.S.

We caught up with Quijada and Steimer on the phone recently.

Cindy Quijada and Alexandre Steimer at their authentic French cafe Le French Rooster in Burbank, CA. (Photo Courtesy Jorge Antonio Jimenez)

“We’re much better, now,” Quijada said, speaking from her parents’ home in Leon, Mexico, where she and Steimer have been residing since February 2023, after leaving France, where they had been embroiled in visa issues trying to return to the U.S. at the end of November 2022.

Since reopening with limited hours, Wednesday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m, Quijada has managed the cafe from afar, online, creating schedules, checking with vendors, placing orders, checking the shop cameras, managing the flow of online orders and speaking with the cafe staff.

“It’s been very hard,” she continued. “We’re happy with the team running the shop three days [per week.]”

“At first, we had my family helping out… my brother, my niece and my sister-in-law, but they had to go back to their lives, so we had to find new people.”

“I have to keep the shop open and every week is a different challenge, since we are not there,” she also said.

Karl Windak, Le French Rooster’s in house pastry chef, and assistant manager Dolores “Lola” Garcia, have been keeping the shop running, along with other staff, some of whom who’ve had to return to school.

Customers have asked why the cafe can’t be open more than three days per week, and the short answer is, for all their dedication, Karl and Lola also have other jobs and can only spare three days per week.

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Le French Rooster’s Pastry Chef Karl Windak. (Photo Courtesy Jorge Antonio Jimenez)

“We’re more than grateful for them to help us keep the shop open,” Quijada said. “We have heard from family and customers that the taste is still the same. We want to keep having this same quality.”

“We’ve had more compliments than complaints.”

Being open three days a week at least keeps the business operating, paying the basics like rent, employee wages, utilities and supplies.

But the stress of managing Le French Rooster from a distance and not being able to be hands-on with the daily operation of the cafe as Quijada and Steimer did in the past, has led the couple to put the cafe up for sale.

“We’re in the middle of trying to sell the shop but also trying to sell it to someone who wants to keep it going and doing what we’re doing,” she said. “That would be amazing.”

No concrete offers have come through just yet.

The visa problem was months of drama and stress that Quijada and Steimer endured, after being given incorrect legal advice back during the pandemic in early 2021. Quijada thought they were following the rules properly.

“Those things were out of our knowledge. we put all our papers together, we employed Americans,” she said. They were planning to add tables and a little terrace outside, after finally receiving word from Burbank city officials they could proceed. They planned to grow the business more, things were going well and they were paying taxes.

Dolores “Lola” Garcia, Assistant Manager at Le French Rooster. (Photo Courtesy Jorge Antonio Jimenez)

“If I had known our visa wouldn’t be renewed, we would either have planned to leave the U.S. or look for another way to solve it,” Cindy said. “I’ve lived in the U.K.and France before the U.S. I studied when I was 12 in the U.S. with student visas. I never intentionally stayed anywhere illegally.”

Quijada and Steimer went to France in late November 2022 and when they tried to renew their visa, they were told the U.S. wouldn’t let them back in. The last day Quijada and Steimer were physically at the helm of Le French Rooster was the week of Thanksgiving 2022.

“It was amazing as I was telling our customers we were going to go to France to reapply for visa, we were sure we will be able to renew, and we had all our loyal customers coming the week of Thanksgiving wishing us the best for the trip and looking forward our returned in January 2023.”

Time ran out for the couple to stay in France, as Quijada isn’t a French citizen. So on February 15, 2023, the couple flew to Mexico.

The couple reopened Le French Rooster on January 18, 2023, with the team of Olivia Delgado and Sofia Quijada as baristas, Garcia as Assistant Manager and Windak as Chef’s Assistant.

“Now [Windak] is totally the Pastry Chef. We had to add employees as it’s too much work.”

Once their customers learned of their visa problems, Quijada and Steimer were encouraged to contact Representative Adam Schiff’s office for help in mid-February.

When his office did not respond, several customers went and “knocked on their door,” Quijada explained. Many wrote letters to the Congressman.

One letter a customer sent Schiff stated, “Right around the corner from your Burbank office is Le French Rooster, one of the best coffee and pastry shops Burbank has to offer. Unfortunately, the owners aren’t allowed to come back in the country because their E2 visa was denied. This is a travesty and a tragedy. Alex and Cindy just got their bakery going before COVID hit, and still they managed to grow and thrive.”

“Now they aren’t allowed back in the country, despite being thriving business owners. This is wrong on every level,” the customer’s letter to Schiff continued. “Please stop by their bakery currently being operated remotely by a skeleton crew, and get Alex and Cindy back into the country.”

Chef Alex in the kitchen at Le French Rooster. (Photo Courtesy Jorge Antonio Jimenez)

Schiff’s office stepped in to assist in mid-March.

The result of Rep. Schiff’s office’s assistance was that the couple were encouraged to reapply for a visa. But Schiff’s office never confirmed if they cleared the couple’s three-year ban.

“Everything was uncertain,” Quijada said. Because the visa renewal would most likely take a long time and wasn’t guaranteed to be approved, Quijada and Steimer have decided not to proceed with reapplying at this time. Instead, they plan to sell Le French Rooster and move on to find a new place to settle and start a new cafe.

“For me, it’s not a way of living so we decided not to proceed. Everything was a maybe and I understand that,” she said.

“Between all this chaos, we feel very blessed. So many people have helped us.”

“We even received donations from customers. I still need to get back to them, to thank them,” she said. “But I want to do it when we have good news.”

Quijada shared a donation link for those interested in helping out the couple.

Every week now, she worries about how things are going with the shop, but she noted that “Karl is doing things the way Alex did and Lola has been doing so great.”

“It has not been easy for Karl and Lola. This kind of business, restaurant business, is hard. You fix one thing and then there’s another problem to deal with. The biggest lesson has been that we can delegate when you have the right team and train them properly.”

While the essential menu has stayed the same during Quijada and Steimer’s absence, the pastry chef has also made a new special dessert of goat cheese, lemon and blueberries, that by all reports is delicious.

As the couple ponder their next steps, right now, Burbankers are lucky to still be able to enjoy the authentic and delicious French recipes many have raved about over the years.

View our 2019 review of Le French Rooster here.