Good Pastry Is On The Rise In The US

As someone who has observed food trends in the US, we've seen many business concepts and products come and go. In the last decade, cupcakes, cake pops, and most recently donuts, are the fads the public have been attracted too. Don't get us wrong, when done right all of these products have their place, but often times businesses that are built around one particular product will leave themselves vulnerable to swings in consumer behavior. One advantage of a well-run bakery is the ability to create a range of products that connect with the entire community rather than just a segment of it. It hasn't been widely accepted or talked about yet within our culture, but over recent years, pockets of communities are slowly being won over by fine patisserie. The most talked about chef who has created a bakery of this nature in the US is Dominique Ansel. If you look beyond this bakery you'll find fine patisserie shops popping up and being run by chefs like John Kraus, William Werner, Norman Love, Adam Thomas, Cedric Barberet, Dimitri Fayard, Joel Reno (soon to open the Encore Boston Harbor), and Nathaniel Reid who opened the most recent pastry shop we visited.

It didn't take long after making our arrangements to visit that we became curious about how the shop was going to be seen by its patrons. Upon our arrival and seeing the number of products on display in the 10ft+ case, we knew there was going to be a lot of questions raised by the customers as well. After a few happily given explanations, descriptions, and enough browsing, it was almost an expected reaction for the customer to crack a joke about getting one of everything. Although the comments were made as a joke, decision paralysis is a very real thing. In this case, where most people are narrowing their selection to several items instead of a singular item, a customer can walk away feeling more confident that they're going to get something they'll enjoy. This multi-item purchase is an excellent opportunity for a business because each dessert becomes a way to build credibility and bridge the gap of turning someone into a regular customer. At the time we arrived at Nathaniel's shop, customers could choose to have a few comforting American classic cookies and brownies, a selection of viennoiserie items, a healthy array of sandwiches, petits gateaux, quiches, macarons, pound cakes, jams, and snacking items like chocolate bars.

As the time comes to add another new pastry to the menu, Nathaniel takes careful consideration to what flavors and products he believes will appeal to his customers and balances those thoughts with his creative desires. If you were to imagine his recipe development process, it is a lot like how you'd imagine a savory chef to build his recipes. When he broke down his process to us, he explained that he always begins with flavor first and then figures out the formulation needed to support/stabilize that flavor profile. To be more specific about his methodology, he will begin by outlining his idea and by weighing all his containers and mise en place before starting any mixing, cooking, or baking. It isn't until after this step that he's able to build his recipe and evaluate taste. When he's happy with the results, he then reweighs the remainder of the unused ingredients to subtract them from the initial amounts which will give him the EXACT recipe quantities. It's because of this respect of ingredients and how they're used that you can recognize how clean, well balanced and distinguishable all the flavors in his desserts are.

When it comes to the design, Nathaniel's approach to aesthetics can be described as elegant and minimalistic which makes his dessert production friendly. To help replicate his style, Nathaniel uses a selection of Sasa Demarle molds that allow him to be in control of the creative process. His philosophy regarding molds is that you should purchase them based on a vision you have first thought through vs. buying something to replace the creative experience. This philosophy allows Nathaniel to maximize how he uses his molds, because he may use the same mold several times and achieve a very different look. It's almost like product inventory in a way. If you were to think about how you can justify bringing in one ingredient you need to figure out more than one way to use it. Why should a mold or tool be any different?

 

When it comes to the design, Nathaniel's approach to aesthetics can be described as elegant and minimalistic which makes his dessert production friendly. To help replicate his style, Nathaniel uses a selection of Sasa Demarle molds that allow him to be in control of the creative process. His philosophy regarding molds is that you should purchase them based on a vision you have first thought through vs. buying something to replace the creative experience. This philosophy allows Nathaniel to maximize how he uses his molds, because he may use the same mold several times and achieve a very different look. It's almost like product inventory in a way. If you were to think about how you can justify bringing in one ingredient you need to figure out more than one way to use it. Why should a mold or tool be any different?

Having said that, if you would like to be a business owner you will need to learn how to use your attention to detail in many ways besides making a product because you will also need to care for employees, customers, and your community. Your response to things like handling customer's special needs, employee training, and how you choose to participate in giving back will be challenges and opportunities you face daily. That level of responsibility will take commitment, but we can only imagine the reward and satisfaction that comes with that as well. When done right, it's these little wins that will ultimately lead to your successes. So, if you would like to open up your own shop one day, train your mind not to look for just the big wins, but the little ones too.

 

If you'd like to see the beauty shots we captured at Nathaniel's shop be sure to check out our Instagram and Facebook pages, or if you're keener on watching the interview we did with him check out our YouTube page too.

We'd like to say a special thank you to Nathaniel for opening his kitchen to us and creating such an amazing place for people to experience good pastry. It'd be foolish of us not to mention it, but if you're looking to advance your skills as a chef and are looking for work in the US, we'd highly recommend you reach out and do what you can to learn at a place where the passion for our trade runs so deep.

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