Head pastry chef, Thibault
Impassioned head pastry chef, Thibault Leroy this month shows us backstage at the much-loved stand at La Grande Épicerie de Paris, the pastry stand. Discover at his side the stages of creation and production secrets of our sweet collection, where emblematic products sit side by side with new arrivals. Whether a fruit tart, a Saint-Honoré or a fondant cookie, full flavours and taste are ever present.
How did you become a pastry chef?
I started in the family bakery when I was 15. Three years later, I left to hone my skills and learn new techniques in different Parisian pastry-makers’, working everywhere from craft bakeries to tea rooms, to restaurants and hotels.
I also worked for a few years as a consultant. At 22, I accepted my first mission in Russia. I was to set up a croissant shop from scratch, from the production line to personnel recruitment! I learned much from these experiences.
As I enjoy teamwork, I naturally wanted to develop teams around projects and make them grow.
How do you conceive the stand's new creations?
We often use ideas suggested internally by the marketing teams or artistic direction, or we work with customer feedback. Then, we meet as a team with all the pastry cooks.
As the head pastry chef, I ensure the codes employed and the ingredients used. Together, we define the specifications, but everyone is able to put forward their ideas and let their imagination roam freely. Then, we go over the proposals to obtain the final version that we offer for sale.
Our collections are composed of 18 creations, including ten iconic pastries. The rest of the range evolves gradually, depending on the seasons or on events of the stores. They can be completely new desserts or simply revisited, like our macarons. We offer the beautiful element of iconic desserts like the Paris-Brest, the Saint-Honoré or the chocolate éclair.
Between new creations and special cakes for our events, there is always something novel to see at our stand.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
Our DNA is foremost Parisian bakeries’ pastry-making. These sweet elements need to seduce customers and whet their appetites instantly, thanks to careful decoration.
Although the visual element is crucial, we also attach great importance to the place of textures and flavours. At La Grande Épicerie de Paris, our pastry has the sophistication of the Parisian bakeries, but the generosity of large family desserts.
We often propose our desserts in individual or family format. Our customers habitually come to buy their cake every Sunday. It is a more marked trend than in the other places I could work.
Which are the trade secrets of pastry making at La Grande Épicerie de Paris?
We propose the great classics of French pastry-making, putting the emphasis on the raw materials. Our Paris-Brest is made with home-made praline and roasted Piedmont hazelnut. The cream of our Saint-Honoré is scented with Tahitian vanilla… Our products are carefully sourced, to the extent that they can become a source of inspiration in themselves! For example, for the cake for operation “All Aboard!”, we began with some exceptional almonds, with 54% fat content. They are full-flavoured on the palate and highly scented. To highlight them, we combined them with a fruity cream, with apricot.
We also take care that our desserts, even the simplest, are crafted to the smallest detail. Our apple tart bases are pre-cooked with a little almond cream, to intensify the flavour. The apples are then caramelised and stewed or quartered and baked. Finally, we dress our tarts before baking them again. This way, the ingredients all confit together. We can achieve incomparable taste and texture on the palate.