Cooking a baguette is an art, but cooking an éclair is a work of art. To me, the best baker in Paris is called Jean Christophe. His shop is on the corner of Rue Daval and Rue Saint Sabin in the neighborhood of Bastille.
But be careful! He does not want to be called simply baker, since his specialties are pastries above all. Chouquettes, Eclairs, Croissants… He delivers us all his secrets.
Why did you choose to be a baker in Paris?
« I have always been a big food lover. At first at 19, I became a cook. I had studied at the famous school of the Cordon-Bleu, on Champ de Mars Street. But the schedule of a cook frightened me. Then I chose to work with my parents who were bakers. I immediately liked the creative aspect of my job. We can let go of our imagination, especially with pastries. I quickly became an entrepreneur. I have 9 employees working for me today. And I still manage to have a family life. »
What is your schedule like today as a baker and pastry-maker?
« I start at 7 am and end at 9 pm non-stop. In the morning I make pastries and in the afternoon I work in the shop. My wife works with me. I work all week-end but we are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. »
What kind of pastries do you make?
« Anything. Of course I can make the classics: Chouquettes, Eclairs, Croissants… These are what my clients prefer. But I prefer to make sophisticated pastries. I used to make chocolate cakes with 7 different mousses, 7 different textures and 7 different kinds of chocolate. Unfortunately I cannot cook these premium-quality products because people prefer to buy the simple things they already know. It is as if you asked Michael Schumacher to ride a Citroen 2CV! »
How do you get along with your clients?
« I like to have big laughs with them. But I never remember their names. My wife is my Data Drive: she remembers all the names. It is not easy to have faithful customers. We have clients who come here very often but one day they would choose to go to another baker and there is nothing we can say about that. »
Have you felt the economic crisis in Bastille, this wealthy neighborhood of Paris?
« We have a lot of tourists so it compensates for the Parisians who come less often. I could feel the crisis hitting Europe this year. I have had fewer Europeans and more Americans than the other years. In general in my profession, 80 bakers in Paris out of 100 feel the crisis hitting them. »
Do you speak English?
« I manage to communicate with tourists, using my poor English and their poor French. »
Finally… Do you have a special recipe for us?
« I can tell you about Chouquettes. We make pastries in the part of the shop which we call « the Laboratory ».
- Cook in hot water:
- 25cL of milk
- 4g of salt
- 100g of butter
- Mix the whole.
- Add 600g of flour. the mixture now has a solid aspect.
- Leave the mixture to rest on the fire during 5 or 6 minutes.
- Remove the mixture from the fire and add 4 eggs.
- Make small balls with kitchen pouch.
- Add corse-grained sugar all over the small balls.
- Cook at 200° C during 20 minutes.