A French patisserie in the heart of Perth is introducing traditional Gallic delights to the city. Natalie Gerritsen reports.
RAPID-FIRE French fills the air as dough is ferried to the ovens in the basement of one of Perth’s newest cafes. It’s busy, hot work.
Jean Pierre Sancho opened the doors at 878 Hay Street six months ago and its owners claim it is the only French boulangerie (bakery) patisserie in Perth.
Expatriate chefs Corentin Laumaille and Stephane Gruson, with director Franck Durolek, have created a little piece of their homeland right in the middle of the city.
Mr Laumaille says the business has filled a niche in Perth, where there is little to no access to traditionally baked French pastries, desserts, breads and croissants.
“All the bakeries have been sleeping because there is no competition,” he says.
“We’ve been living here and we’ve been looking for some good bread, French bread, and we couldn’t find any, so we said ‘let’s go and do it’.”
The three colleagues travelled to France and met up with Mr Gruson’s former employer, the man after whom the store is named – Jean Pierre Sancho.
They negotiated to buy the Australian rights to his name, along with his recipes, which have been passed down through the family for generations.
Tradition is an important part of Jean Pierre Sancho, and some of the recipes used in the bakery are more than 200 years old.
And, with tradition in mind, the business will soon deliver bread to restaurants in the inner city via a custom-built tricycle like those used in France in the early 1900s
The owners are already looking to expand their product range to include gourmet ice-cream and chocolates, both to be made on the premises.
“We’ve got the ice-cream machine and we’re going to run some tests this week and then soon we’re going to start, because summer season is starting now and there is not that much good ice-cream around,” Mr Laumaille says.
“Stephane went to France two months ago and he did a chocolate course in Lisle, where he’s from, just next to Belgium and for baking and chocolate it is the best place in France.”
The response to Jean Pierre Sancho has been so positive that a second shop is already in the planning.
Next week, the fit-out for the new cafe, located at 111 St Georges Terrace, begins, and Mr Laumaille hopes it will open in early December to catch the Christmas rush.
He credits part of the business’s success so far to the ‘Masterchef’ factor, as diners and consumers look for more sophisticated and authentic food.
“We’ve been in an era where it was quick food, cheap food and now I see that people start to go back, to organic product, natural product,” Mr Laumaille says.
“They are really changing the way they are eating now.”
Mr Laumaille and Mr Gruson, who used to work at the New Norcia bakery, use only locally grown and sourced produce, fair trade organic coffee, and also have a strong commitment to sustainability, using recyclable or biodegradable packaging.
Originally the owners thought they would need to import specialised ingredients from France, but have been impressed by the quality of local alternatives.
“At the beginning we were thinking to import the flour from France, but we decided to work with some local people and we found some great people who love what they are doing, for all the food, flour, coffee everything,” Mr Laumaille says.
Jean Pierre Sancho the man, now in his 60s, is looking to retire and sell his three stores in France.
When he does retire he will visit Perth to check on the progress of his foreign namesake.
Mr Laumaille and his colleagues are confident that he will be pleased with the results.
“He will be happy, I’m sure.”