After a chance meeting at a dinner party with pastry chef Joakin Prat, in 2015 Jeremie Vaislic sold his financial business and started Maitre Choux. Today, Jeremie has raised over £2.5million in private investment for Maitre Choux, has a new location on King’s Road opening this autumn, and has his eyes set on further expansion throughout London. Traditionally, fine pastries were available in the Michelin-starred restaurants – Jeremie wants to change that and bring the patisserie experience – using the highest quality and freshest ingredients, to everyone. In the last few years alone, Jeremie has been instrumental in the opening of three Maitre Choux shops and kiosks around London, as well as stocking the eclairs, choux and chouquettes at Fortnum & Mason and Caviar House. Fans of the brand include Emma Watson and George Clooney and they’re on track to sell their millionth eclair in 2019. We caught up with Jeremie to hear how he left the cut-throat world of finance for butter, flour, sugar and eggs!
1. You’ve opened three shops and kiosks of Maitre Choux in London in the last few years – what makes London the right market to expand Maitre Choux?
London is a very cosmopolitan, trendy city. People are used to a high standard of quality and love to discover new concepts and new products, whether it is in fashion, art, or food. Since I moved to London in 2004, the standard of food and restaurants has skyrocketed; however, desserts have been left out. There
great bakeries doing brownies, cupcakes, etc but fine desserts of the highest quality are impossible to find in London outside of fine-dining restaurants and a couple of brands. Londoners are craving an offering that is not just a trend, but puts a strong emphasis on the quality of the products as well.
2. What is your favourite dessert/Maitre Choux product?
Up until last month, it was the Paris-Brest. It’s an eclair filled with a praline cream, whipped cream, praline sauce and topped with a very thin and crunchy caramelised almond layer. It’s divine and is one of our best sellers. However, I’m a chocolate addict, and we just released a dark chocolate and earl grey eclair available at our new King’s Road location. It’s simply incredible. It’s filled with a cacao biscuit, a dark chocolate ganache, as well as a chocolate mousse infused with earl grey, and it’s just delicious!
3. When you’re speaking with someone at a dinner party – how do you describe what you do?
I usually go with “I sell cakes”, and then if they’re interested in the story I’ll elaborate. People generally are, and I end up explaining what the products are, showing the instagram account, and how the whole thing came about. It’s always interesting to see people’s reactions about an ex finance guy who turned to cakes!
4. Tell me a little bit about the process of making the eclairs and choosing the flavours?
The process is actually quite complex and there are several steps involved. First is the choux pastry. It is a mix of eggs, milk, flour and butter that is very sensitive to temperature and humidity changes. Our chefs have to constantly watch over it while mixing the dough. When the dough is ready, we pipe it onto a baking tray to give each eclair its shape. Then we bake each eclair in a specific type of oven to the perfect colour. After this comes the cream. All our creams are completely different in textures, colours, flavours, so it’s really not a trivial process. Once the cream is ready, each eclair is individually filled. The next step is to apply the glaze to the top of the eclair, and finally to put the toppings that each need to be made individually.
Picking the flavours is really about getting the best out of the ingredients that we use. The process starts with selecting which ingredient we want to work with, and picking the best producers. For example, we use raspberries from Spain, we import our vanilla all the way from Tahiti, and our pistachio from Iran. Working with high-quality ingredients, we are really able to achieve flavours that are refined and complex. Then we can play around with the ingredients to get fun combinations like our Banana pop corn, or cappuccino and cacao biscuit. It’s all about trial and error and building on our experience and intuition as to what will work best!
5. What do you think accounts for the popularity of your products and the growth of your business over the past few years?
First of all, I believe the tastes of Londoners have evolved so much over the past 15 years I have been in London, and people expect the highest quality of products. Our ability to combine a delicate and refined product to fun designs and branding is essential to our strategy. Our approach is very holistic. We put a lot of effort into making sure everything is in harmony. When customers come into our stores they receive a full Maitre Choux experience, which is recognisable from the polka dots branding on the windows and the boxes, to the fun pastel colours of the interior, and of course the beautifully designed eclairs and choux.
6. I’d love to hear your thoughts on trends in the dessert and grab-and-go food culture? What’s to come?
People love to eat well and generously. There is already so much variety in London that one must be very innovative in order to become successful. I think we are seeing a sharp increase in the quality of products that food businesses are offering. In order to be able to differentiate from the competition, it is important to have a holistic experience where the brand is really here to showcase the product, as well as to highlight what is so cool/ interesting/ fun/ worthwhile about it. In terms of actual products, time will tell which concepts will be successful, I’m hoping eclairs and choux pastry products obviously!
7. Are there any new products you’re developing that you can tell us about?
We want to develop our range in the spirit of our brand with more long shelf-life products. You might see some new colourful products coming to our shelves in the next few months!
8. What are your plans for the business in the coming year
We can now announce that we will be opening in Bicester Village at the end of January, which is really exciting, and hopefully another London-based location in 2019.
9. How did you start the business and what do you know now that you wish you had known starting out?
After selling my previous company – finance, nothing to do with food – I wanted to leave finance for something more fulfilling. I always loved food, and I thought that choux pastry was not getting enough recognition. It’s such a versatile product that it really required its own brand to showcase it. After a meeting by chance at a restaurant, Joakim and I decided to partner to open Maitre Choux in 2015. Today we are about to open our fourth store, and we are on track to sell our millionth eclair during 2019!