Perth pastry lovers can thank a series of fortunate events for leading Emmanuel Mollois to Perth.
ONE of Perth’s most respected pastry chefs and his popular Swanbourne patisserie, Choux Café, would never have existed if fate, and a favourite uncle, hadn’t stepped in.
“I became a pastry chef by accident,” says pâtissier, author and budding television star, Emmanuel Mollois.
Mr Mollois was a professionally trained chef specialising in fish and sauce for a Parisian gourmet restaurant in 1993 when a colleague’s illness started a series of events that eventually led him to Western Australia.
“The head chef organsied a meeting one day with all the chefs and he said ‘one of the chefs is sick and I need a pastry chef’,” Mr Mollois says.
“And he was looking directly at me, and no-one else. I didn’t want to do it, but that was the start.”
And that “start” became a career path, with Mr Mollois firstly developing his pastry cooking skills in a fine-dining restaurant (as opposed to traditional pastry chefs, who learn in a bakery).
Looking around for a new direction and opportunity to grow his talents, he next considered moving overseas, to Cananda, at age 27.
Fortunately for Perth’s macaroon lovers, Mr Mollois sought advice from his 95-year-old uncle before finalising his decision.
“He said ‘why do you want to go to Canada for? Why not go to Australia?’”, Mr Mollois says.
“I was like, ‘where?’”
The next day he received a call from his Melbourne-based cousin and, despite speaking no English, Mr Mollois and his girlfriend, Gordana (now his wife) packed their bags.
In 1996 he was working at La Brasserie in Melbourne’s South Yarra.
After two years in Melbourne, and learning English via night classes and from the television (principally episodes of ‘Seinfeld’), the couple moved to Perth where Mr Mollois was employed by fellow countryman, Alain Fabregues, as head pastry chef at popular Mundaring eatery, The Loose Box.
He also co-created the award-winning Le Paris Brest Patisserie Francaise in Mundaring in late 1999, but sold his share in 2003 after he and his partner disagreed with the growth and direction of the business.
“I never wanted more than one shop,” Mr Mollois says.
Six years after establishing Choux Café with new business partner, North Cottesloe Café owner Jane Grove, he remains wary of expansion.
The pair spent $150,000 converting the old sweet shop on Shenton Road into Choux Café before Mrs Grove retired in 2007, selling her stake back to Mr Mollois.
Since then, he has learned all aspects of the business, ably supported through all the challenges by his wife.
And with three children under the age of six, Mr Mollois has put his passion for cycling and playing the drums on hold for the time being.
While he says quality control is the most important thing he’s learned while in Australia, apart from English, his true passion is sharing and teaching the art of pastry cooking.
As such, Mr Mollois holds cooking classes at Kitchen Witch in Subiaco, is currently in production for a second pastry cook book to complement his first, Et Voila, (published by Fremantle Press) which came out in September, and will expand his television experience, having already appeared on ‘Alive and Cooking’ on Channel 9.
“You’ve got to do it yourself, buy it yourself, know it yourself – seven days a week, 12 hours a day,” he says.
“But family is always the most important.”