This week I met with Pierrick Boyer, head pastry chef for The RACV club and their boutique cake shop, Le Petit Gateau. I discovered that Pierrick is not just your typical French cake enthusiast, he has worked in the army, lived all over the world, swears by organic produce and can’t get enough of Hawaiian culture.
COUTURING: You have won awards for ‘most creative sugar work’ and ‘most original dessert’, what creations won you these titles?
PIERRICK: Yes, that was the brownie passion fruit, our signature dish, that was the first attempt at a best seller. It is totally different now, but that won me the award then.
C: Have you always been good with fiddly bits or did you have to train your hands?
P: You have to train, but personally i believe you have to be into details. To be professional it is all about attention to detail.
C: What’s your favourite little embellishment?
P:I love using dark chocolate swirls, but it is about looking at the overall style and the theme. It has to be balanced, I don’t want swirls on everything. A lot of people put strawberries everywhere, I don’t. Firstly because I want to be separate from the rest but also I tend to decorate with what is actually in the cake.
In the almond and coffee cake I use coffee, almond meal, chocolate and a homemade nutella. So, I embellish with golden roasted almonds and coffee beans on thin chocolate. I’m minimalist, if you don’t do the decoration properly it is not going to look good. I like to play with positive and negative space. A little off centre, I like that.
C: I’ve noticed that some of your cakes are made with foreign ingredients, like green tea, or have a slight
American twist. Have you picked up some flavour combinations overseas?
P: Yes! I lived in America for six years, the peanut butter and raspberry jam cake is inspired by that. But now I feel a bit intolerant to processed food. Once I had a peanut butter and jam cake in a brioche bun at a VIP function but they had used Kraft peanut butter. The day after I did a fresh roasted peanut butter from scratch, a mousse and fresh raspberry jelly. I want to know what is in what I eat, it tastes so much better.
C: Have you been to Japan?
P: Yes, I adore Japan and they love pastry. It is such a change of scenery. I’ve lived in America, Belgium, France and here but when I went there it was a new world. Their desserts are not too sweet, they were nice.
C: You seem to stay away from traditional flavours, why is that?
P: I want to be different, and funnily enough, when we first opened we had a few comments on urban spoon (which I try not to take too personally) that just highlighted my difference and unique combinations, I was happy with that. There are too many other places that just do the ‘normal’ things.
C: Does being ‘RACV club’s award winning pastry chef’ entail any other exciting jobs?
P: Yes, I went Healesville a few weeks ago to help do their desserts and menu. I took a picture of the view on instagram (pierrickboyer), it was beautiful. We help them create the desserts we do here, it is mostly quality control. It is hard to do exactly the same, the chef they have styles it. Because of the shop, hotel and restaurant I don’t get to do too much else, pretty busy.
C: What is your favourite chocolate recipe? And what do you like to drink with it?
P: It is the cake with the cream swirl on top, the hazelnut Millefuille (below). It is a hazelnut dacquoise, hazelnut crunch, a thin layer of milk chocolate and finished with the swirl.
Under the cream there are different textures. With a latte I’m in heaven.
C: Do you consider yourself to be a perfectionist?
P: Little bit, yeah. I am. Definitely.
C: Is that frustrating sometimes?
P:(laughs) Good one. It is hard when you have several events and you want everything to be perfect, You have to rely on staff, I cannot do everything myself. My role is ‘manager’ and making sure it is up to standard.
C: How important is ‘the look’ of the dessert?
P: You look at something first, then you eat it. Look is probably forty percent, taste is sixty percent. The first idea is what you see but the memory is what you taste. That is what makes you go back.
C: Would you consider being a patissier, to be ‘breaking the mould’ as a profession for men?
P: Funny thing, when I started there were more males. Then I worked with a lady in Belgium, that was after five years of never having worked with a lady before. She specialized in ice-cream. Maybe some men here think they are too ‘blokey’ but I certainly don’t think it is girly. You definitely have to be creative orientated. It is my personality. Two words that describe me would be creative and organized. I need guidelines. I was in the army and I thought about staying because I like things that are structural and rigorous, but I need the creativity. I was a UN peace keeper with the French army. I need to travel and be creative though. Traveling is huge, at the end of my pastry apprenticeship I realized I could travel with my work. I went to London for a week and straight away I was offered a job, I was like oh wow.
C: Is there anywhere you still want to travel?
P: Yes, probably South America. But I feel fixed in Australia. When people ask me ‘do you miss home?’ I say, I am home.
C: I hear you’re keen on Hawaii, could you tell us about trips and experiences you’ve had there?
P: Ive been to Hawaii 8 times. The first was back in 98 and I felt grounded when I went there, it felt like home because the people are so kind.
Its funny people usually think my tattoos are Maori (from New Zealand) but it is actually a sleeve of the Hawaiian Islands. I love Hawaii. I love the people, the music… the food is not the highest on the list. I got my tattoos there over 10 years ago because I just wanted to see it everyday. When you have a tattoo it becomes part of you, you forget that it has not always been there.
C: Anything from Hawaii you like to add you recipes?
P: Ive done pure banana cake and pineapple cake. Traveling opens you to different ingredients like these fruits and coconuts. We have a piña collada tart here I like to make.
C: Is being French and loving cakes just a cliche or was that a big part of growing up for you?
P: Totally part of growing up. When I was four or five years old, i lived next door to a pastry shop. My father was a plumber, and my grandfather, a coal worker, i realized that wasn’t for me, when they were looking for me I was next door in the pastry shop. It never left me, when I thought of it as a career it was like, yeah, of course.
C: How do you come up with new flavour combinations? (every kids dream)
P: I look around what’s happening, on social media. I look at other chefs, but when I create something I don’t want to copy and paste or replicate what they’ve done. I just look at the theme or idea and add my own thing, I will not copy flavours or textures, I have to be different. It has to fit the theme of the shop and not be too difficult for production. I will not use 20 or 30 ingredients in one item. Some do, and I respect them but I have to put business first. Recipes need to be sharp.
C: Do you enjoy cooking savory meals? Does it feel like a break?
P: No. No. I don’t. My wife cooks savory meals. She is french but she makes different things.. mostly Asian, organic and vegetarian. I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway. She became vegetarian after we went to Honolulu. We didn’t eat meat for 3 or so weeks and we felt great. There is an unbelievable vegetarian restaurant there that only the locals know. I also discovered, Forks Over Knife, a DVD that shows you how to eat plant based products and it makes you feel really good.
C: And finally, what would you say your philosophy on food is?
P: Natural, simple, seasoning (salt, pepper, herbs and spices… So many places use great things but don’t season). We get organic food from Williamstown and Yarraville. I keep it simple, it’s about having natural products.
Be sure to pop in to visit Pierrick and sample some of his delicious creations at Le Petit Gateau.
Le Petit Gateau
458 Little Collins St
Open 7.30-5, Monday-Saturday