By Brooke Shaw
The industry is evolving; you have to keep traditions while adapting and being innovative at the same time. Our customers want lighter, healthier versions of our pastries.
| Bruno Cloutier, cake designer at Patisserie Duc de Lorraine in Montreal.|
QUEBEC / Montreal landmark
Pâtisserie Duc de Lorraine artfully blends tradition with innovation
BY WENDY HELFENBAUM
Jacques Landry is an accidental pastry chef, thanks to a sprinkling of serendipity.
During the late 1970s, Landry’s father found out through his accountant that Montreal’s famed Pâtisserie Duc de Lorraine was for sale.
“He thought it would be a great business for my two brothers and me, so we decided to give it a go,” recalls Landry, who studied at the Quebec Tourism and Hotel Institute and at the Lenôtre Culinary and Pastry School near Paris.
Founded in 1952 by renowned French pastry chef Jean Adam, the award-winning bakeshop, located near Mount Royal, was named for the owner’s birthplace near the Lorraine region of France.
When Landry and his brothers Sylvain and Alain took over the business, they worked from Adam’s original recipes. “For 58 years, almost everything has been made the same way, with real butter,” notes Landry. “We use real liqueurs in our pastries, and everything is sold the day it’s made.”
A quarter of the bakeshop’s 28 employees have been there for three decades. Landry’s brother Sylvain handles chocolatier duties, and makes ice creams and sorbets. Alain left the business 15 years ago.
With more than 200 different cakes, pies and pastries, and 25 kinds of Christmas logs, Landry has more than one favourite.
“Our Patate Grand-Marnier is very special: it’s an almond-flavoured mini-cake soaked in Grand-Marnier, rolled in almond paste and cocoa. Our Côte-des-Neiges is a light-tasting cheese mousse topped with fresh raspberries.”
The bakeshop also offers gourmet gift baskets, ready-made platters and boxed lunches for hospitals and universities, adds Landry, as well as foie gras, caviar, meat pies, specialty cheeses and fresh breads.
But Duc de Lorraine’s croissants, consistently named “Best in Montreal” year after year, remain the star item. “Our Viennoiseries sell as much as all our pastries and cakes combined,” Landry says.
Landry takes pride in maintaining the original equipment he inherited from Adam.
“The Austrian machine that rolls out our croissant dough dates back to 1967, and still works incredibly well,” he says. “We’ve also used the same Hobart oven for more than 30 years.”
Landry has updated his bakeshop while maintaining its storied history. In 1993, the brothers added a 40-seat salon de thé (tea room).
“The industry is evolving; you have to keep traditions while adapting and being innovative at the same time,” he explains. “We still grind the almonds to make our praline bases – which is very rare in the industry – but we’ve modified some of the old recipes. Our customers want lighter, healthier versions of our pastries. Our mousses are less in demand today. We’re still making buttercream, but it’s less rich, less sweet.”
When you’re a Montreal landmark, there’s no need for splashy print ads or Facebook campaigns.
“Our marketing is mostly word of mouth,” explains Landry. “We have clients that have been coming here every week for 40 years. Some come every day. We open the doors, and they’re waiting to come in for their café/croissant breakfast. Clients from Boston and New York take boxes of our pastries home on the plane.”
Landry is as passionate about his craft today as the day he took over Duc de Lorraine.
“I just love it,” he says. “People have asked us to open a place in New York, and in Toronto. We once opened a franchise in a nearby shopping centre, but people told us things didn’t taste the same. The water was different; not having the same oven changed everything. We’re better off having one location and taking care of everything really well.”
Wendy Helfenbaum is a Montreal writer and television producer. Visit her at www.taketwoproductions.ca.
As this issue was going to press, Bakers Journal learned that Patisserie Duc de Lorraine had been sold to Elio Pagliarulo, former owner of Pâtisserie Pagel in Laval, Que. However, the Landry family remains involved in the operation of the business. – Ed.
| Giselle Courteau, a co-owner of the Parisian-style Duchess Bake Shop, works the counter at the Edmonton bakery.|
ALBERTA / Duchess owners discover Edmonton is ready for a Parisian-style patisserie
BY NORDAHL FLAKSTAD
EDMONTON – Spend some time in France and you might return to Canada wanting to set up a Parisian-style patisserie. But Japan seems an unlikely source of similar inspiration. Yet while teaching English for four years in Tokyo, Giselle Courteau and Garner Beggs were inspired to return to Edmonton and open their French masterpiece, the Duchess Bake Shop.
Finding inspiration in Japan isn’t as strange as it seems. Patisseries are popular in the Japanese capital, with recognized French brands such as Ladurée having set up shop. French pastry chefs give courses in Tokyo and Courteau signed up for one. Although the Edmonton native didn’t have formal bakery training, she already had worked in bakery production and sales in Victoria and Vancouver.
Just three months after returning from Japan in April 2009, space had been leased northwest of Edmonton’s downtown core. On Oct. 2, the Duchess doors opened onto a décor that successfully blends the gilded finery of a traditional patisserie with a clean, contemporary look.
“We wanted to take something from the French tradition and combine it with a bit that was modern,” explains Courteau.
Patrons can walk away with their order or linger over a coffee while sampling from some 30 regularly featured products – including croissants, éclairs and the house speciality: macarons consisting of filling placed between almond-flour meringue cookies. To complement what may seem exotic to Edmontonians, Duchess’ pie selection offers more familiar fare.
All products are baked from scratch, using natural ingredients and no artificial preservatives or stabilizers. Duchess is also particular about ingredient sourcing – for example, butter comes from New Zealand, almond flour from California and Valrhona chocolate from France.
Courteau believes Edmonton was ready for Duchess. For example, the once-strange macarons now have gained North American exposure through appearances and mentions on TV shows and movies, making Canadian customers eager to see what all the fuss is about.
Duchess doesn’t sell breads, partly because Edmonton already has several quality bread bakeries. Courteau admits bread production would have required higher initial investment in larger ovens, mixers and other equipment – leaving less to spend on crafting the patisserie’s ambiance.
The quick acceptance of Duchess surprises Courteau and Beggs. Success originates with superior products but also with the effects of positive reviews by Internet bloggers and Facebook users. That led to local entertainment guides and mainstream media checking out this piece of Parisian pastry heaven located on 124th Street, near several commercial art galleries and specialty food and wine outlets.
Duchess draws an eclectic clientele, including a trendy younger set from throughout Edmonton as well as customers dropping by from nearby neighbourhoods. Opening on weekends (while closing Mondays and Tuesdays) has enhanced Duchess’ reputation as a dessert destination.
The enthusiastic response means Duchess now has more than a dozen part- and full-time staffers, including well-known local pastry chef and instructor Jake Pelletier.
“We’ve already outgrown our space,” Courteau says.
This means that in addition to replacing the shop’s current small (overworked) Baxter oven, her wish list includes expanding into adjacent premises. Given the strong reception so far in Edmonton, that shouldn’t take long.
| Jack Schaddelee Jr., one of the head bakers at Victoria’s Dutch Bakery|
BRITISH COLUMBIA / Third generation set to take reins at Victoria’s Dutch Bakery
By Brian Hartz
These days it’s hard enough for a family-run bakery to survive one generation, let alone three.
Easier access to, and cheaper, education and travel lead children to careers that didn’t exist in the 1950s and ’60s in places their parents might never have heard of.
That’s not the case with Dutch Bakery in Victoria, B.C. A mainstay near the busy downtown corner of Fort and Douglas streets since 1955, it was founded by Kees and Mable Schaddelee – immigrants from the Netherlands – along with their two oldest sons Arie and Jack.
Eventually, after finishing school, the two younger sons – Kees Jr. and Maarten – came to work at the family business, which is actually part bakery and part diner/café, offering a full breakfast and lunch menu in addition to a large assortment of pastries, chocolates and cakes. All four sons’ wives – Anke, Donna, Bonita and Nadine – were hired on at Dutch Bakery as well.
Eight grandchildren have worked at the bakery; four of them – Lavonne, Jack Jr., Brook and Michelle – are currently on staff. Jack Jr. is one of the lead bakers and has been at the bakery for 28 years. His colleagues in the kitchen, Gerry Hambley and Roberto Pivetta, have been plying their trade there for 30 years and 19 years, respectively.
Although Kees Schaddelee Sr. passed away in 2007 at age 97, the bakery retains the décor and furnishings of his heyday nearly half a century ago, including a soda fountain. Beyond the front area with its cash register, waiting area and pastry and chocolate display cases, there is a dining room with small tables and booths, complemented by a long counter with swivel stools running along almost the entire west side. Small pastries cases are attached to the counter at eye level for maximum temptation, while up above the wall is covered with black-and-white photos of Dutch Bakery taken during its formative years, confirming the business’s charming resistance to change.
The booths and tables are cramped by today’s standards, no reservations are taken, and, unless you’re sitting by yourself at the counter, expect to have company if no other tables are available.
That’s by design, says Bonita Schaddelee, who helps run the business most days but says she’s “easing into retirement.” She says Dutch Bakery has historically been a meeting place for many social clubs and groups, and that the business strives to foster a sense of togetherness and community by seating solo customers at partially occupied tables.
A perfect example of this occurred on the day Bakers Journal visited. It was just before noon and Dutch Bakery was in the midst of its late morning rush. The lunch crowd was starting to trickle in and the place was filling up fast. I was lucky enough to run into the now-retired Arie Schaddelee, one of the sons who helped start the business, and his wife, Anka, who had stopped by for brunch.
While Bonita attended to the swell of customers, I took at seat at Arie and Anka’s table to ask them a few questions about the bakery. Another woman was at the table and I apologized to her for interrupting her time with her friends.
“It’s OK, I don’t even know them,” she said.
She’d been seated with the Schaddelees because all the other tables, booths and stools were full, she explained.
In the back, Jack Jr. proudly confirmed that Dutch Bakery’s products are as stuck in the past as its décor.
“All the recipes came with Kees from Holland,” he said, pointing out a thick book he referred to as the business’s “baking Bible.”
“Not much has changed since then. Everything is made from scratch with no preservatives.”
In a nod to modern trends, Dutch Bakery has done some tinkering with recipes to accommodate customers who want sugar- and gluten-free products.
“It’s not like the old days when you could just make a whole pile of product and expect it to sell,” said Jack Jr. However, nearly two million of the bakery’s most famous pastry, the Vanilla Slice, have been sold and consumed over the years. That amounts to almost 800 per week – and that’s just one product.
But, whether because of health or economic concerns, “people have cut back a bit,” Jack Jr. added. “So we check the front to see what’s selling and what’s not. But for the most part we have a pretty set schedule.”
Dutch Bakery’s reputation has made it an icon in Victoria, and word-of-mouth reviews have spread to the U.S., so much so that customers from Washington State make the trip to get pastries and cakes for weddings. It has also been featured in the Lonely Planet series of travel guides, further burnishing its status as a must-visit location for sweet treats in the capital of British Columbia.
Despite the acclaim, Bonita didn’t seem to think much would change at Dutch Bakery in the 21st century, including their business model.
“We’re all self-taught – and it’s all on-the-job training,” Bonita said. “People still come in here to visit with the Schaddelee family.”
Something tells us they won’t be going anywhere.
| Karen Silliker of The Cake Box in Riverview, N.B.|
New Brunswick / In just five years, Karen Silliker has put The Cake Box on top of the wedding-cake market
BY LINDA HERSEY
Everything is deliciously sweet these days at The Cake Box, in Riverview, N.B., but there was a time when owner Karen Silliker wasn’t sure her business venture would work out.
It all began as a hobby for Silliker. She’d make maybe 10 or 15 wedding cakes a year – whenever she could fit it into her schedule. A former administrator with the Riverview Fire Department, a job she loved, life was pretty full. Still, making cakes was a passion and when a local cake maker retired, Silliker got “busier and busier” and a decision had to be made: hobby or full-time business?
So in 2005, with “a big push” from her husband, John, she made her decision. John wrote her business plan and helped her get contact people, while a $40,000 loan from the Business Development Bank of Canada allowed her to buy ovens and much-needed equipment, and carry out renovations so her kitchen could clear all necessary red tape inspections. Then, she officially passed from hobbyist to professional businesswoman.
“I always refer to it as the moment I decided to step off the cliff,” Silliker recalls. “For about a week I had quitter’s remorse. I lay awake at night and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what have I done! What have I done!’ That quickly passed, though, and we went forward from there.”
Indeed she did. Under Silliker’s direction The Cake Box has become known for its masterpiece wedding cakes (150 annually). “It’s a huge part of our business,” she says, as are occasion cakes for birthdays, anniversaries, baby and bridal showers … and then there are her very-much-in-demand cupcakes. She sells more than 2,000 a week at her retail store in nearby Moncton, in addition to scones, cinnamon buns, muffins and the ever-popular Down East coffee.
“Cupcakes are what keeps the retail store on Mountain Road going,” Silliker says, “because when you’re doing specialty cake orders, you don’t have cakes just sitting there waiting for people to buy. It’s almost like two different arms of the business, the cupcake side of things and the wedding and specialty cakes.”
The idea for cupcakes occurred to her while seeking business for her cakes at the local Dieppe Farmers’ Market. People snatched them up, and word spread. It proved to be an ideal way to showcase her baking talents.
Silliker’s business has grown from a one-woman operation five years ago to its present business with a staff of 10. Business continues to be brisk and aside from her standard bakery equipment, she’s very excited about the new “cake toy,” the food-grade friendly Cricut Cake Machine that’s creating a “huge buzz.” It takes thin sheets of gum paste or fondant and spits out the design you choose. Additionally, Karen supplements such modern innovations with annual classes to learn new skills and techniques in the industry.
Silliker feels determination is the main ingredient for success as an independent baker – that and hard work. It’s common for her to work between 60 and 80 hours a week at The Cake Box, but she feels energized and challenged as she says with a smile: “I don’t have any regrets!”