Meet The Chocolate Maker
Gourmandises Avenue Chocolaterie had evolved due to our love of fine chocolate and pastries that are made with the finest, freshest ingredients. You may say that it all started with our love of Nova Scotia…
Both Yseult and I hail from the beautiful country of France. I am from Lyon & Yseult from Rennes. Our experience includes working in five star hotels and restaurants in France, England, Switzerland, Ireland and Canada.
I started out by making pastries and chocolate at home at the age of 7 for my sisters and parents. I had such a passion for pastries and chocolate that by the time I was 12, I did shadow work in a small pastry shop during Christmas break, Easter break, and summer vacation. The Master chef, (owner) of the pastry shop was so impressed by my determination, he decided to take me under his wing and offered me a two year apprenticeship program. It was a hectic schedule, for three weeks/month I worked to learn all the basic technique of pastries, chocolates, candy and ice cream making, the remaining week I was attending technical courses at the well-known pastry school ‘François Rabelais” near Lyon. With the grueling hours and intense examinations, Jean-Pierre received high marks and received his certification of Pâtissier, Chocolatier, Glacier, and Confiseur. This was just the beginning of a long impressive journey for me.
When my Master Chef couldn’t offer me a full time position in his small pastry shop, he recommended me for a tremendous opportunity to start my career working in one of the best places in Paris… HOTEL DE CRILLON! This hotel is a 5 star Palace hotel, 2 star Michelin restaurant located on the splendid Place de la Concorde at the bottom of the Champs Elysées. Being on your own at 17 is one thing, but being 17, on your own in such a big city (Paris) was another. The kitchen team at the Crillon Hotel was huge, 35 chefs and 8 pastry chefs!
I started at the bottom and had the mundane jobs, the crummy hours, and was expected to be doing everything perfectly – there was no other way here. Not sure if I was ready for this, but after one month, I thought I wasn’t going to make it, but then realized I was here to learn and do my best, so I kept my head up and finally after 3 months not only was I more confident in my work and started enjoying the Parisian life, the executive pastry chef and executive chefs in the kitchen, started to notice my work and gave me more responsibility and interesting tasks. I climbed the ranks and in a year and a half, earned the title of Chef du Partie. Having to leave the French capital for one year to do my National French Service, I was sent to Germany in the Black Forest in Freiburg. After that year, I was invited back to the Crillon, and given the 1st Pastry Chef position. This position held much responsibility, and at only 20 years old, I had to organize the pastry team and also perform pastry products, chocolates and all sugar work orders. Working at the Crillon was such a memorable experience and knowing my work is being served to presidents, movie stars, kings, queens from all over the world, was such a tremendous feeling. Yet, the desire for something different tugged at my heart and found an ad for an executive Pasty Chef at the Keltic Lodge, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – Canada!
Although the Executive Chef ‘Gilles Hostal” was very impressed by my resume, he only had two concerns - Ingonish Beach (Cape Breton) was not Paris, and my English was a bit sketchy to say the least! However, I was accepted and boarded the plane in France, then London and when I landed in Sydney, NS; I was amazed with the scenery from Sydney to Ingonish. Travelling part of the Cabot Trail which was a breathtaking experience – somehow I knew that this would not be just a ‘one-summer’ fling! Having fallen in love with the slower pace Nova Scotia offered me, I came back every year for 13 summer seasons, returning to France in the fall to work in the French Alps. This was my life for many years until Yseult came along…
In 2001, we began the hiring process for an assistant pastry chef (at the Keltic Lodge), so we put out an ad for the position. After reviewing many applications, I selected one with a very solid back ground in pastries, currently working in London England. Yseult was a young lady, very determined and passed the interview process with no problem. When Yseult arrived at the Sydney airport, I picked her up in Keltic style (Keltic Lodge van) and was very late (she was the only one left at the airport). I had only one request for Yseult at that time and that was that she refers to me by my first name, and not “Chef” as is customary in Europe.
Yseult had proven herself to be very professional, possessed a very good work ethic and was well loved by the other pastry team members and all staff. Yseult had a similar back ground and experience. Yseult also completed a 2 year Pastry apprenticeship in Fontainebleau at a very high end pastry shop called “Chez Mesples”, just outside Paris. She felt that being female (in a male dominated profession) she was not welcome in this field, but she was very determined to face all challenges. After her 2 years apprenticeship, her master mentor was very pleased with her work so he offered her a Commis Pastry chef position for 2 more years. In 1996, after working at Chez Mesples, and a few more summer/winter seasons in France, she decided to take on a role in England to learn English. The only challenge now, was the language, as female pastry chefs were welcome in England. After 5 years working in London, she, too, realized something was missing in her life and decided to take on another opportunity, like me and found a similar ad to mine back in 1988, for a Pastry Assistant at the Keltic Lodge, Nova Scotia.
It wasn’t long after we started working together that we realized we had more in common than just a passion for pastry and chocolate. We came to learn that we also shared a lot of the same goals and values, which created a special chemistry outside the pastry lab, and the beginning of our wonderful relationship (which has led to the birth of our son, Noé, last Christmas Eve).
During that same year I decided to settle and stop doing the routine winters in France and summers in Nova Scotia. Yseult and I, along with a long-time friend, Cathy, worked on a business plan to open a pastry shop in Nova Scotia. Yseult did not have proper documents to stay in Canada more than 6 months so she went back in Europe to work for the winter months for the next two years, returning to the Keltic Lodge every summer where we worked hard on our new business. “Gourmandises Avenue” was opened in the Spring of 2003. Once Yseult received her land and immigrant status, in 2004, she was here to stay!
Since then, we’ve maintained our production lab just outside Halifax in Eastern Passage, (20 minutes from downtown), but moved our front lab to the new retail store in Halifax. The retail store is located on the Halifax boardwalk at Pier 20. Due to increased demand of our products, we had to employ new staff and purchase larger showcase coolers and equipment. You will see that our Seaport Market has been furnished with state of the art equipment which ensures freshness and quality of our products.
The process of evolution has never stopped for us, we are always creating new products, new ideas to entice our customers. We feel we have the best clients because they understand and appreciate our products. They know we use only fresh ingredients, no preservatives or artificial flavors and include as much local ingredients we can find for our recipes.
We’ve worked with many local organizations and participated in competitions which have yielded us many awards that we are very proud of. We’ve been featured on the cooking channel, various news stories and also featured in Laura Calder’s cooking show. In 2008, we were awarded as Business of the Year by CDENE and the following year, a finalist at Lauriers de la PME in Ottawa. In the Spring of 2010, for the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy, we were asked to create specialty chocolates for Her Majesty the Queen Elisabeth II during her visit in Nova Scotia as a gift. In 2011, again, we were requested to produce specialty chocolates to the Honorable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada as a gift during his first visit in Nova Scotia.
We would like to share our passion for fine chocolates and delicacies for you as well. Please stop by, say Hello and enjoy our professionally handmade delicacies that are crafted with the traditional French style and spirit. We have a full range of products ready to fit your needs with competitive pricing. Our mission is to provide you with unique, high quality, fresh delectable chocolates to experience a final touch of “Plaisir” to your palate. Come in and see for yourself