Aside from starting out at famous restaurants such as Fauchon, Chef Christophe Adam has a popular worldwide pastry franchise known as “L'Eclair de Génie.”
Bakers Journal editor Naomi Szeben interviewed the busy chef between his travelling and managing his chain, and shares the pastry expert's advice on his new book, "Éclairs: Easy, Elegant & Modern."
Bakers Journal: You began working as a pastry chef since you were 16 – Which did you make more often, pastry or éclairs when you started out?
Chef Christophe Adam: Everything really started for me at the time when I was working at Fauchon in Paris. Management had asked me to create an éclair for the New York house: Citrus éclair, covered with orange icing. Then I created others: pink, blue, red, yellow, green, purple ... The flashy colors became my trademark.
We had to be quite daring at that time, to make ultra-colorful pastries while we were right in the middle of a boom in pastel-colored macaroons. Éclairs have been a part of my handiwork for years. As for the macaroon, the éclair was to be, according to some, a real fashion phenomenon.
However, the éclair had been in fashion in for more than fifteen years. Not bad, right? They are recognized worldwide and copied in every way. At L'Éclair de Génie today, we benefit from a great longevity, and more than 340 éclair recipes! Of course I offer other products in my stores, like chocolate-flavored grocery items, spreads, caramel, coated nuts, chocolate bars. In short, I don’t ever get tired of creating new products!
BJ: Do you ever get bored of making pastry? How do you keep your passion alive?
CA: My brain is always bursting with ideas and projects. It's quite addictive to live creatively at 100 miles per hour, designing new concepts and products. In fact, when I created L'Eclair de Génie 6 years ago, I didn’t necessarily say that I was going to conquer the éclair world, but things have been happening so fast since the opening that sometimes I have a hard time to create and innovate.
It’s a rather beautiful challenge, a beautiful adventure that I wish to experience for a long time. I hope to open more L'Eclair de Génie stores around the world, but also new concepts as well, like my very first restaurant that I opened in May 2017 in the heart of Paris: Le Dépôt Legal.
I wanted to create a locale in the spirit that reflects my tastes and discoveries I made on my travels. It’s a lively workplace that is open non-stop, where you can nibble and sip great quality products at any time of day. The idea was to propose salty and sweet creations, articulated according to four daily highlights: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and the end of the workday. In short, a place where any excuse is great to sit on a bench or lounge at the bar to have a great time.
On top of all of this, I continue, of course, to write cookbooks, to participate in TV shows and most of all, to find time to play golf, my second passion!
BJ: What challenges did you experience when writing your cookbook, “Eclairs: Easy, Elegant & Modern Recipes?”
CA: I think it’s especially at the time of the book's creation and development that things magically come together, a real teamwork effort between a creator and a photographer to stage and properly light an éclair, for example. The visual process truly brings across a spectacular final product.
BJ: Many chefs are very protective of their recipes and methods. What inspired you to reveal your secrets in you cookbook?
CA: What motivated me to create such a cookbook was the pleasure of sharing my passion with likeminded, passionate people like myself, who live for pastry and its possibilities. I have no problem revealing my recipes. Quite the contrary, if it can help people reveal a new facet of their personality while discovering a new passion, then I do so quite willingly.
BJ: Can you talk a bit about your creative process – from concept to editing, and finally, your published cookbook?
CA:Everything is done in harmony with my creative team. In my books, I try to put forward a plan to highlight both new and existing creations, some that I’ve kept in the recesses of my mind for a long time, or some that come to me “just like that,” by imagining other recipes. Then, the photographer’s creative eye helps magnify my creations, very much like a stage play, where one works the sets and the staging of each product. The publishing house then takes care of the entire model by following my blueprint for the creation, printing, and distribution of the final publication in bookstores.
BJ: Why did you choose to set up a franchise in Vancouver, and not the predominantly Francophone market of Québec?
CA: To be fair, I don’t know if we really have to answer that question, because in fact we went ahead and chose Vancouver because of an established Asian partner already living in Vancouver who came directly to us. Basically, we hadn’t necessarily wanted to settle in Canada; we were targeting the US, but given the difficulties of setting up shop there, we gave up.
At the same time, we were contacted by a Canadian partner who wanted to develop a L'Eclair de Génie franchise, so we thought, why not! It’s a way for us to make ourselves known on the North American continent.
BJ: You’ve had a passion for pastry since you were a teenager. How do you stay inspired when the going gets rough?
CA: You need to have a fighter’s spirit, because there is always something to learn from each failure. You have to know how to surround yourself with a team you can depend on; The work I do as the company manager I have become today, is also constrained by our country’s economic situation, which has its ups and downs. This reflects in our shops’ sales. Any external event can disrupt the turnover, like bad weather or some terrorist attack, for example. You therefore have to constantly adapt to change and be creative in the face of unforeseen events.
BJ: Your accomplisments are fascinating: from Head Chef at Palace Beaurivage in Lausanne, to working at Fauchon, just to name a few of your successes: What advice would you give to a pastry chef just starting out in the field?
CA: It’s true that, in recent years, television programs dedicated to pastry have fueled the passion of people, regardless of each chef’s geographical location. Many books are devoted to the subject, as we are witnessing a new generation of Chefs who are constantly reinventing this field, which I think is great.
Creativity is an essential quality for a great pastry chef, and the challenge for these talented newcomers today is to make available in store whatever spectacular creations they’ve managed to invent in award-winning restaurants. There are creative gems to be found in some great bakers, accessible to all and that's what people like today: the chance to give your eyes and taste buds a taste of what’s available. Now for those who are still at the novice level and who are just coming into the trade, my advice is: never give up. Learn from these failures and carry on, because this job is hard due to its work conditions and brutal schedules. You have to know how to start at the bottom rung of the ladder before becoming a brilliant Pastry Chef.
BJ:If you could go back in time and change any one decision what would it be?
CA:I wouldn’t change a single thing. We mustn’t regret the choices we’ve made along the way; we must own them as the events that have shaped us into who we are, taking the good along with the bad. We have to move forward and enjoy life!
Interview with Chef Christophe Adam, on inspiration and éclairs
Bakers Journal had the privilege of interviewing the busy, internationally-known pastry chef who began his illustrious career at the age of 16.
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