Pastry chef Joakim Prat has just launched Maitre Choux, a French-style pâtisserie and small café in London's South Kensington. He is also hoping to be selected for Pastry Team UK, which will compete at the Coupe Du Monde de La Pâtisserie in Lyon in 2017. He spoke to Hannah Thompson about bringing French classics to a London crowd
Why now and why South Kensington for Maitre Choux?
While the quality of restaurants in London has really been improving, pastries have mostly remained dominated by cupcakes and brownies. We really wanted to bring the best of France to London. If we convince South Kensington's French locals that they don't have to go back to Paris every weekend, we'll be on to something!
What's different about Maitre Choux?
Maitre Choux is an English company. While our name and expertise is French, we made sure to incorporate typically English elements. We are really proud to be in London and to provide desserts prepared to three-Michelin-star standards that would cost £15 in a restaurant.
I am also the part-owner and have two partners [Marina Nadirova and Jeremie Vaislic] who believed in me and gave me the chance to showcase my skills. I have heard so many horror stories about chefs going into business, but so far, it has been incredible.
What's been the most challenging thing about opening?
Everything! From finding the right location to designing a store and a logo, sourcing packaging and suppliers, and making sure it all was in place on opening day.
And the best thing?
Customer reactions. Our most loyal customers come in five days a week and it's amazing. It means we must be doing something right! I love watching passers-by stop in front of the shop window, carry on walking, and then turn back to buy something. It really warms the heart.
Why have café seats and not just operate as a pÁ¢tisserie alone?
With six seats, it is not meant to be a fully-fledged tea house, but a comfortable way to enjoy our products. We created an environment around our product and it is designed to showcase our pastries.
You're serving coffee and hot chocolate too
People love to enjoy our products sitting down drinking a thick, homemade hot chocolate or a coffee. They really go hand in hand. In France, it is quite unusual to enjoy a pastry without a hot drink.
You've worked in some of the world's most prestigious kitchens
Everything has led up to this. Working in a kitchen, one constantly learns new techniques. I was lucky enough to have a passion for pastry and I have worked hard from a young age. Unfortunately, for the best things in life, there is no shortcut.
You're taking part in the Pastry Team UK selection, to be announced 5 October
I still need to learn a lot but it would be an amazing to take part. There are so many more pastry concepts that I would like to bring to people's attention.