Bite-sized Ballarat: A little slice of Paris in Creswick

Paul and Marie Williams, owners of Le Peche Gourmand in Creswick. PHOTO: ADAM TRAFFORD
Paul and Marie Williams, owners of Le Peche Gourmand in Creswick. PHOTO: ADAM TRAFFORD

IF YOU snare a table at Le Peche Gourmand in Creswick, make sure it's in one of two spaces.

Regulars either make a beeline to the cream and mustard French love seats in front of the open fire place or dine alfresco underneath the large elm tree.

"We liked the idea of a fireplace in the cafe, but people stay here for hours," co-owner Marie Williams said. "It is hard for people to move out."

Regardless of where you are sitting at Le Peche, it seems the masses aren't leaving the French patisserie anytime soon.

Marie, with her pastry chef husband Paul, have built on their success since opening in March 2012.

"We have been really successful, I don't think there is any question about that," Marie said. "We are busy enough to know that it's working."

When you first meet Paul and Marie, you learn very quickly they are not afraid of hard work.

Baguettes, brioche, croquembouche, croissants and marcarons everything you see in the customised glass pastry cabinet is baked fresh, every day.

Marie said they had the glass cabinet installed to prevent crisp pastries from softening when chilled.

Paul prepares the bakery treats well ahead of service, sometimes clocking on at 11pm the night before to make sure things run smoothly.

During the more civilised hours Marie joins her husband in the cafe, but usually after the morning school run.

Every morning she walks alongside her eldest Noah, 5, who rides his bike to school in Creswick.

Their two other children, Leonie, 3, and Manon, 7 months, are in day care.

Marie moved from her father's farm in Saint Philbert de Bouaine in France when she was 20.

Three years later she met Paul in Canada. The pair never imagined they would open their own cafe, let alone in Australia.

"People thought we were crazy opening a French patisserie," Paul said. "At times, we did not think we would get there."

It was after visiting one particular French patisserie, tucked away in Darling Harbour in Sydney, when the pair decided to open their own.

"It was beautiful," Paul said. "There was just something about the place."

In 2011, Paul and Marie decided to move from Sydney to Creswick, located about 20 kilometres from Ballarat.

A couple of months later the pair stumbled on to the Albert Street building.

"We wanted an older building with the character," Paul said. "We found a place in Creswick, and spent another eight to nine months organising."

In between working other jobs and raising a family, the couple refitted the majority of the 1861 building.

"We had to fit out the kitchen, tradies obviously did the bigger jobs, but most of the little pieces were left to Marie and I," Paul said. "I'd leave work, come here and work on (the cafe)."

"We did not have a hot water system in the kitchen; we had to fit our own," Marie added.

Everything from replacing the rustic wooden floorboards in the main room to positioning chairs into the "awkwardly-shaped" back room with the fireplace, Paul and Marie have always had creative control.

But they made sure they avoided the cliched French decor.

"Things with the Eiffel tower and Paris are just daggy," Marie said.

After spending two years of building their empire, the pair do not have any big plans to change.

"We are enjoying working and spending time with our family and it's just right at the moment," Paul said.

Le Peche Gourmand is open Tuesday to Saturday from 7.30am to 4pm.


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