Breakfast at Maître Choux

Maitre ChouxLONDON, United Kingdom — I’m sitting at a table of the acclaimed Maître Choux indulging myself with a handful of chouquettes, cute choux pastry casings topped with pearl sugar and a delicious hot chocolate, which I’ve been told is ‘grandma’s recipe’. The perfect combination to start my day with Joakim Prat, the high flying Head Pastry chef at the Maître Choux. While I embark on a degustation of a choux made of vanilla cream and raspberry jam, Joakim’s favourite choux, and a coconut éclair, Joakim’s least favourite éclair, I’m ready to hear all about becoming a world-renowned pastry chef.

A passion for baking

Joakim Prat has had an exceptional career. He started to cook at the age of 14 and by 16 he had joined a Relais dessert pastry shop in Southern France, a move that would introduce him to the world of pastry where dedication, precision and creativity are the key components for success.

After 12 months in London Joakim, raised in Biarritz, moved to Spain and started as Head Pastry chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Hofmann. He later joined the late Santi Santamaria at the famous 3 Michelin-starred restaurant Can Fabes – a move that would mark the real beginning of his successful career. “I learnt a lot with Santi Santamaria because his cooking style was very traditional, without altering the products too much,” Joakim recalls. “I couldn’t use any products that were not natural like colorants, stabilisers, taste enhancers, etc. I had to make my own pectin and my colouring … I basically learnt to make everything from scratch.” After a “stop over” as Head Pastry chef for the opening of Sauc in Barcelona, Joakim returned to London and worked as executive pastry chef at the 2 Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon for two years then moved to The Greenhouse, another 2 Michelin-starred restaurant in Mayfair.

Getting it right every time

For us ‘pastry amateurs’ it’s difficult to make clear distinctions between baking and cooking but Joakim assures me that ‘processes’ in baking are essential: “If you don’t follow all the steps of the process, you have to throw away everything and start from scratch again.”

The challenges in this field are not just in the precision of your baking but also in the working relationship that you have to build with the kitchen chef as often the pastry chef will be seen as the shadow of the main chef. Joakim’s experience and marvellous creativity helped him to overcome these challenges flawlessly. “I think I’ve been very lucky with the chefs that I have collaborated with in the past as all my ideas and propositions were taken on-board. Normally, the chefs know what they want and will tell the pastry chef the flavours, directions and shapes that they want. I don’t like this because what I enjoy most from making pastries is the creativity I can use. I’m a very creative person and people have always given me the green light to do things my own way,” Joakim tells us with a cheeky smile.

He continues: “Working in any restaurant is hard, now imagine working at a Michelin-starred restaurant, you are constantly working under pressure; you work long hours (12-16 hours a day, 5 days a week) and you always have to give the best of the best to the customers.” It seems though that even if you might be a very creative person in the pastry world, without solid foundations, strong baking skills, not to mention the processes and techniques, and the long working hours, you might not get anywhere!

While Joakim might consider himself a lucky young chef, his superb baking skills and dedication have already been recognised at the international level with the award of the golden medal for UK Best Dessert of the Year 2014 and the UK Rising Talent at UK Pastry Open World Cup 2013, among many others.

The choux shop

Six months ago, Joakim decided to open a petit choux shop in London, with the idea to create a concept around choux pastry, a light dough that is crispy and soft, which in the hands of Joakim turns into a delightful gourmet dessert.

Maitre Choux

Maitre Choux in South Kensington, London, UK.

The success of Maître Choux has surpassed all Joakim’s expectations with all their products being sold out every single day. “Funny enough our vitrine has become a must-stop for taking selfies and pictures,” laughs Joakim. And why wouldn’t you snap a quick pic at one of the most colourful, chic and welcoming vitrines in South Kensington? The presentation and vivid colours of each éclair on display are a clear proof that the making of an éclair is pure art, an artiste patissier!

Our éclairs are very visual and this is an important component of my cuisine. I wanted my éclairs to be different from all the others because of their quality, design and flavour.

One single bite and you immediately discover how high Joakim’s standards are. All his offerings, including the éclairs, the choux and the chouquettes are fresh, not too sweet and just the right size. As soon as you finish the first éclair, you are ready to devour the next … and you might even squeeze in a third!

Maitre Choux

Chouquettes: choux pastry casings topped with pearl sugar.

The design of each éclair, carefully curated and inspired by paintings, jewellery and fashion, is presented in a variety of colours, flavours and designs featuring strong flavours and unique combinations to make happy every palate: “You ask for chocolate, you get chocolate! It’s a challenging task to make everyone happy but I enhance and stick to the flavours to avoid disappointment!”

“The éclair is the new macaroon,” exclaims Joakim. “With my éclair collections I try to follow the seasons, so it is a seasonal product.” And just to meet our festive mood, Joakim has just launched a limited edition of éclairs: a gold version made of hazelnut and milk chocolate and a snowy version made of coconut, both options featuring cute little chocolate ribbons to recall Christmas prezzies.

While Joakim admits that he adapts to new themes, like the latest trend of the éclair, he’s aspiring to set the trends and is already very busy working on a new proposal for the shop. “Every month we propose two new editions to keep our clients engaged with a varied selection.” His creative mind is also busy with new ideas: “I would like to re-invent the cupcake following my own ideas but making a cupcake that is good and tasty,” I hear you Joakim, it’s time to explore new alternatives to the old big and sweet cupcakes and introduce a gourmet option to the table.

Stayed tuned as next year Joakim will be very busy opening new shops including one in Covent Garden. And if you are a regular at the Chiltern Firehouse, you can find Maître Choux’s éclairs on their menu and you can also grab one on the fly while doing the last of your Christmas shopping at Fortnum & Mason.

Courtesy of: Joakim Prat, Maître Choux | Website: www.maitrechoux.com
Elizabeth Deheza About the author

Hyperactive perfectionist, vintage lover and working mother, coordinates and directs content across The FG Magazine. Comes from everywhere and nowhere; educated in six different countries with a MALD in International Security and a career in management consultancy.

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