THIS week, Suzi indulges with Paul and Marie Williams at Creswick's Le Peche Gourmand Boulangerie and Patisserie.
I’m trying my hardest to make it past the display fridge, but taunting me from inside the shining glass is the tart au citron, the opera gateau and the escargot — eat me Suzi, eat me! But it’s not me that should be hallucinating, it’s chef and owner Paul...
Suzi: What time did you start this morning?
Paul: 1am today, but normally I begin baking at 2am.
S: What time will you finish?
P: Around 4pm, or when everything is as it should be.
S : That’s 15 hours — only a truely passionate chef pulls these hours. Where and when did your love for food begin?
P: I grew up in Parkes, in New South Wales.
My first job was at Woolies bakery when I was 16 and then I moved to Bakers Delight.
S: Did you complete all your training as a baker?
P: No, I moved to Canberra and completed my apprenticeship at the Hyatt. I worked my way up to chef de partie of patisserie. I ran the team of chefs, some baking tarts and gateaus, others bread and some with ice creams and cold desserts. We also did many
functions at Parliament House.
S: Where did you meet Marie?
P: While working overseas in Canada. We then travelled together and Marie took me to France.
S: What part of France is Marie from?
P: The Loire Valley, which is known for fine muscat, butter and brioche. Marie’s family has a farming background and a self-sufficent lifestyle.
S: It must have been very tempting to stay
P: We travelled back and forth together for four years, then my visa ran out and we had to make a decision. So we moved to Sydney and I worked as the sous chef at Est.
S: What prompted the move to Victoria?
P: My sister and her family live at Cave Creek and we would come to this region on holidays and loved it.
S: Are you using some local produce?
P: Yes, we love the Istra ham — it is very good
— and also the Tuki trout. I have made some
quiche with creamed leek and Tuki trout.
S: Availability of produce is a big problem for chefs in Ballarat as most suppliers have the basics only. Menus are limited, or often very similar, for this reason. Have you had problems sourcing some ingredints?
P: Yes, finding things has been very hard. I’m using a lot of Melbourne suppliers and having to pay extra for deliveries.
S: We popped in for brekkie on Mother’s Day and the butter with my croissant was delicious — very pale with a lovely salty taste.
P: Marie is the butter queen. She is used to the very best and we want to do everything properly and not cut corners. The butter is Lescure, imported from France.
S: How much butter does a French patisserie use in a week?
P: This may scare you but about 40kg to 50kg.
S: What’s the best-selling item so far?
P: Guess — what do Aussies love the most?
S: Oh no, I’m embarassed for us – it’s vanilla slice, isn’t it?
P: Yes, we make a mille feuille of vanilla creme and the customers all think it’s vanilla slice. I only make 15 a day, otherwise we would sell hundreds every day.
Paul has to pop back into the kitchen as the customers are pouring in and my baby, Frankie, has decided she’s hungry too. But on the way out, I ask the lovely Marie a couple of quickies...
S: Is there anything you miss being so far away from home?
M: Oui, I really miss being able to eat fresh seafood, and I would love to see some fine dining restaurants in Ballarat.
S: What does Le Peche Gourmand mean?
M: It is the sin of gluttony. There is no direct translation, but, essentially, it means food that you can’t resist. Even if you’re not hungry, you just have to try it.