Anna Mendoza carries a worldly mystique. With her 6-foot height and piercing blue eyes, she could be a model, poised beautifully in her new downtown bakery. Mendoza is the CEO and executive pastry chef at Vienne, a French-inspired bakery, pâtisserie, and café opened in May, where her extensive baking repertoire is daily on display.
Vienne means “come here” in the French language and is also the name of a town located in southeastern France. It is here where nouvelle cuisine—today’s modern style of French cuisine—originated at the hand of chef Fernand Point with the restaurant La Pyramide. Mendoza’s Vienne, tucked amid luxury condos at the corner of Babcock and Wallace, floods with light from expansive windows. The black-and-white stone counters and floors conjure marble from French chateaus. Almond croissants, Kouign-amanns, pane al cioccolato, and quiche Lorraine are showcased in two glass cases. They are evidence enough of Mendoza’s passion and dedication to modern cuisine.
Mendoza grew up on a ranch in Fairfield just west of Great Falls where she ground wheat and baked with her mother. “I grew up with fresh bread,” she says, adding that in grade school she began baking bread for meetings and social functions. “I was completely in love with baking.”
Fast forward to 2013. After graduating from Walla Walla University, working as a server for Wolfgang Puck Catering, and opening the Downtown Cooking School in Memphis, Mendoza enrolled at Gastronomicom in Cap d’Agde, France, where she received training in the art of baking and pastry-making. After her schooling, she took a four-month internship at Le Beau Rivage in Condrieu, France. “Nobody spoke English,” she says of the kitchen staff , adding that the chef drew pictures in order to communicate with her.
From France, Mendoza landed at San Francisco’s Boulettes Larder, where she learned the “volatility” of making canelés—golden pastries with a crunchy shell and custard inside. Then a stint at Spruce, a restaurant that holds a highly coveted Michelin star, helped her gain plating experience. A year later, Mendoza took a position at Bien Cuit in Brooklyn, where she learned to bring out a bread’s flavor through fermentation. Upon returning to San Francisco, she headed Arsicault Bakery, which was recognized by Bon Appétit magazine as 2016’s “Bakery of the Year.”
As this variety of experiences helped Mendoza hone her baking expertise, she began conceptualizing business plans for her own endeavor. Last spring, when the COVID pandemic hit, she and her husband, Daniel Mendoza, decided to pick up and leave the city. Together, they opened Vienne in Big Sky country. Mendoza bakes; her husband assists with operations. Ultimately, Mendoza hopes her café will be an inviting place for the community, where patrons can enjoy inspirations from France. “It means the world to me to be back in Montana,” she says. “It literally makes me want to cry when I look around and see what we’ve created and it makes my heart so happy to see people in our café unwinding, catching up with friends, and enjoying our creations.”