We spoke with Joakim Prat, award-winning pastry chef and founder of the ultra-Instagrammable Maitre Choux patisserie to find out more about his favourite flavours, aesthetic-based food philosophy and secret midnight snacks.
What inspired you to open Maitre Choux?
I had spent a long time working in pastry shops and many restaurants, but the problem with restaurants is that you’re mainly in the shadow of the main chef.
In France, pastry chefs are a little bit more in the spotlight than England – but here, not so much. I grew tired of being frustrated with this and wanted to open my own shop.
Why did you choose to focus on eclairs?
Actually, in the first place I wanted to focus on more of a choux concept, with just a few eclair flavours. But immediately everyone wanted the eclairs – they were a huge hit. I never expected to sell this many. Before it was the macaron, now, everyone is asking for eclairs!
You’ve worked in a lot of restaurants, did you have any favourite restaurants?
I have many – The Greenhouse and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, as well as Hofmann, Sauc and Can Fabes.
What inspired you to become a pastry chef?
I always wanted to be a chef, but didn’t know I would be a pastry chef. My mother was always very busy and didn’t always have a lot of time to cook, so growing up I spent a lot of time in the kitchen.
Describe your cooking philopshy in three words
Colourful, aesthetic and seasonal.
Did you have any role models?
Pierre Hoffman was a big inspiration to me.
What inspires you for the eclair recipes?
When I worked in restaurants, the structure of choosing recipes was completely different. I worked around flavours. I focused on the flavour, getting it perfect before moving to the design.
At Maitre Choux, you see everything straight away – there is no menu. So it was important to make everything stand out. First I think about colours and how the styles will appear visually – then I move to flavours. It’s quite a different way of working!
Do the eclair flavours vary with the seasons?
I aim to, but it can be tricky – a lot of the customers have their favourites! I’m trying to launch a new flavour every month. For May, we have a brand new lemon meringue & bergamot, as well as new designs for several of the other flavours.
There are a lot of pastry copy cats unfortunately, so I like to mix up the styles and decoration – it’s always good to be different.
Where do you source ingredients from?
Mostly from France – the cream, the butter, the chocolate. If there’s a great product I can find here, I’ll use it, but at the moment we source mainly from France. It can also be tricky to find great local produce so I’m working less with fresh fruit and more with frozen varieties instead.
Do you have a favourite?
My favourite right now is the Paris Brest – it’s generous and full of texture! I’m also a big hazelnut fan. The recipe uses praline, which is very sweet, but it’s balanced out by the whipped cream. Delicious!
Finally… what’s your favourite midnight snack?
I have a very sweet tooth – it has to be chocolate!
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