Joakim Prat, Head Pastry Chef, Maître Choux in London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th September 2016

Joakim Prat is head pastry chef at Maître Choux in London.

Working in the kitchen from as young as 14, Joakim would later go on to become one of the youngest executive pastry chefs in the world to work in a 3 Michelin star kitchen when he was at Can Fabes restaurant, Barcelona at the age of 25. After roles at l’Atelier and the Greenhouse, Joakim found his own niche when he decided to open the world’s first and only choux pastry specialist patisserie in London. Specialising in eclairs, choux and chouquettes, both Joakim and Maître Choux have become renowned for their unique take on the classic French patisserie.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Joakim to find out more about his career, his mum being a really bad cook and why he finds inspiration everywhere, even when he’s at the zoo.

Can you tell us a little about your career and how you got into the industry.

I started working in the kitchen when I was 14 years old. Straight away, I loved the busy environment, the orderly chaos, and the focus it takes to consistently be at your best. Both individually and as a team. Before l’Atelier I was one of the youngest Executive pastry chefs in the world in a 3 Michelin star restaurant at the age of 25. The restaurant was called Can Fabes and was the 3 Michelin star brainchild of great Spanish chef, the late Santi Santamaria.

This really shaped me and taught me how to manage people on top of simply creating desserts. This was quite pivotal to me as this allowed me to really take my career to another level. Following this, I came to work for Mr Robuchon in London at l’Atelier where I was in charge of all the desserts for the restaurant and the catering.

Have you always worked in pastry or have you tried other areas of the kitchen as well?

My mother was a really bad cook, so I had to learn how to cook at home if I wanted to eat well! Therefore I started to cook really young, and since then I have never looked back. I trained as a chef when I was 15, then switched to pastry when I was 16.

Pastry isn’t always a chef’s first choice when it comes to the kitchen, why do you think that is?

Chefs have been in the spotlight because the restaurant is under their management, therefore people don’t necessary know much about what it takes to be a pastry chef. Pastry is more about precision and technical skills and many chefs discover a passion for pastry while they are working at other stations in the kitchen.

Salted Caramel

Do you think shows like Bake off and Crème de la Crème are changing people’s perception of pastry?

Definitely! While these shows do not really show how demanding and precise pastry and baking are, they do a good job at introducing dessert creation to the general public, and more often than not, it can go wrong if you miss one single step of the recipe.

How did you come up with the idea for Maitre Choux?

Eclairs are the most sold pastry product in French patisseries and I felt like they ought to receive more exposure in the UK. The entire population of pastry-addicts is in France so they can’t all be wrong in their pastry of choice! While the quality of food in London has skyrocketed to the top of the world’s rankings over the past decade, there has not been an equivalent rise in the quality of desserts that Londoners can indulge in.

The choices that Londoners face when it comes to buying everyday desserts are still quite limited to what I would call comfort food bakery products such as brownies, banana bread, cupcakes, sponge cakes, etc. Maitre Choux is here to change this and this is why I picked London instead of Paris which already has a strong dessert offering. My goal is to bring the finest quality desserts to the general public without having to go to expensive fancy restaurants.

Did you think there was a gap in the market for it?

100% yes.

Info bar

Signature dishes 

Hazelnut Treasure

Red Love

Tahitian Vanilla with Roasted and Caramelized Pecans

Desert island desserts

Coffee eclair, vanilla and raspberry choux, chocolate fondant, crème brûlée and exotic sorbet

What made you choose to open the patisserie in South Kensington?

Set in the heart of South Kensington, the design of the shop also stands as a reminder of French pastry heritage. It is elegant yet playful and reflects the modernity and visuals of our products.

The location was perfect for us as it’s right opposite the French Lycee, which means the French community talked us up quite quickly and others would hear about us through word of mouth. But it really could have gone both ways! I am extremely proud of what the team has accomplished because people are always raving about us in the area!

How does owning and running your own patisserie compare to working within Michelin starred kitchens?

While the quality and consistency of the desserts is similar, as we are really producing 3 Michelin star quality on a daily basis, the main difference is that no one else is accountable if something goes wrong.

Therefore, you really have to constantly stay on your toes to avoid all the pitfalls. This can be quite exhausting, but at the end of the day the end result directly depends on what you put in, and I will never be satisfied with anything less than perfection. I guess I now understand why some of my previous mentors took everything to heart so much. Your reputation is constantly on the line and you cannot allow yourself to slip!

Where do you find inspiration?

Anywhere and everywhere. It can be from reading fashion magazines, to taking a walk at the zoo. This is why I try to stay active and keep a busy life outside of the shop so I can expand my horizons and try and look for new things all the time.

Who inspires you?

I find Pierre Herme to have incredible talent and poetry in his pastry. He is one of my favourites.

What is it about choux pastry that excites you?

The possibilities are endless. Maitre Choux focuses on three products (Eclairs, Choux, Chouquettes), which are choux pastry-based. However, there is so much more that choux pastry can be used for and it’s great to explore this further.

Are there any other areas of pastry you would like to learn more about?

I love to make chocolate and work with sugar. I’m currently training with the UK pastry team which will compete at the Pastry World Cup. I learn new techniques and get new ideas every day. Like everything, if you want to stay on top, you need to always learn and practice.

What are your favourite flavours and flavour combinations and why?

My personal favourite is our pure Arabica coffee éclair. However our best sellers are the Hazelnut Treasure (hazelnut and milk chocolate, coated in roasted hazelnuts and milk chocolate) and the Red Love (filled with a vanilla cream, raspberry puree, and topped by a raspberry macaron).

I guess I like classic flavours the most when it comes to my own personal tastes! It’s not just about combining flavours, what is also very important is to combine textures as this creates such a different experience. I try to focus on both.

What are your future plans for Maitre Choux, can you see yourself expanding, opening any concessions perhaps?

Anything is possible! At the moment, one shop is enough because I don’t want to compromise on the quality of the product, but who knows what the future holds!

 

 

 

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th September 2016

Joakim Prat, Head Pastry Chef, Maître Choux in London