Recently, I spoke with Clément Labaere, French chef and pâtissier who opened his own patisserie called Maison Clément at the Adelaide Central Markets in September. I spoke to him about his background, his gateaux (of course!), French cuisine trends and his Christmas cakes.
You’re a chef and pâtissier and here we are in your Maison Clément which opened about 2 months ago?
Two months ago, yes.
And before that, you worked at Cliché and at Aux Fines Bouches. When did you arrive in Australia?
I arrived in March 2010. I came here to learn English and I found work with Richard at Aux Fines Bouches.
So you came directly to Adelaide?
Yes. I landed here.
Why Adélaïde ?
Because I knew Richard.
And you’re married to an Australian so it’s safe to say you’re going to stay here!
Yes, that’s the plan!
So like that, you came here to learn English and as you already knew Richard you came to work with him.
Yes, I knew Richard. I came to learn English and I liked it here so I stayed on to work with Richard for 6 ans. Afterwards, I left. I did a bit of consulting.
In which domain?
It was still in cooking. Always in cooking and restauration. The last place was at Cliché.
What kind of problem were you consulting to solve?
It’s just changing the menu or for example if a cafe is opening – organising and helping in the kitchen.
Why did you open Maison Clément?
Having helped people, we realise that our ideas are worth selling and having sold them a few times, you think that maybe it is best to keep your ideas for yourself to do the best for them.
And why here?
I live here. I live in the CBD so I have always thought that if one day I opened somewhere it would be in the city. I’d never thought of opening here in the market. But having looked, one of my contacts works at the City Council and the City Council contacted me as they liked my idea. There was a place that was suitable for my idea.
And it’s worked out quite well as we are nearly full here now!
Yes, its working pretty well!
Because a Wednesday at the markets, normally there aren’t many people around. I was a bit shocked to see everyone in here. It’s great. You also had articles published by The Advertiser, Broadsheet, CityMag and InDaily…
They’ve helped a lot, yes.
What’s the major difference between the work that you did before and having your own café?
There’s not a lot of difference. The biggest difference is being able to have access to all facets, like service, marketing and having direct contact with clients.
So were you trained as a chef and pâtissier or were you a chef before becoming a pâtissier?
I firstly studied to be a chef and once I had finished my studies, I wanted to learn more. In France, it takes 2 years for a diploma but if you are already a chef or pâtissier, you can just add on a year to do what you haven’t already done. So given I was already a chef, it was just one more year.
And we have a little difficulty in Australia that pâtissiers for us are for cakes but also for bread and croissants and the like,
Yes. The problem is that pâtissier is called « pastry chef » here but in France, a pâtissier doesn’t make pastries. In France, the pâtissier makes cakes and a boulanger makes pastries. So it’s all a bit mixed up.
Do you make all the cakes yourself each day?
Yes, Every morning. We have about 10 cakes that we always have – I call them the classics. And then for the rest, we try to change them every two to three weeks with specials, according to what’s at the market, what’s in season, etc.
What time do you start each day?
I start between 4 and 5am.
And for Christmas will you be doing anything special at Maison Clément? La bouche de noël?
We have a special cake which we will do. We aren’t going to do la bouche this year as yet. Maybe next year. There will just be one or two cakes especially for Christmas.
What is your favourite gâteau/pâtisserie?
Le flan pâtissier – « Le custard tart » it’s one of the classics that I will always like.
Looking at it, it makes me think a little of the flan breton.
Yes but it’s creamier than the breton.
I also saw that you import butter from New Zealand. Why from New Zealand?
Because we needed to find the butter with the closest taste to French butter and New Zealand’s was the best that we have tasted. We cannot import butter from France because it would cost too much and would in turn increase the prices of the pâtisseries.
And the flour?
The flour comes from Laucke, in Victoria. It’s the best flour.
I know that there is a boulanger in Sydney who imports flour from France.
We can also do that here. There is a company in Brisbane called France Gourmet. They import flour. We thought about doing it but you need to import a lot to have a good price. 40-50 kilos per week.
You spoke about how French cuisine is often very expensive and that you wanted to buck the trend.
There is more than the “fine cuisine” that people know. People always think of expensive French restaurants.
But in France they aren’t all expensive. Why do you think that French restaurants are always more expensive than Italian restaurants for example.
I think that they offer a lot more service. It’s much more based on service. And the importance of the cooking than the rest. That increases the price. The idea of this café is to offer good service à l’australienne – so we offer service at the counter, not table service, which allows me to reduce the prices. And we only offer French classics that you would have in a bistro for example – le croque-monsieur, la baguette jambon – beurre.
And you’re also open Friday nights?
Yes, we open Friday nights. We have a small menu – we offer escargots, salade niçoise, and we do raclette.
So you really do a little bit of everything. It’s not just gâteaux at Maison Clément?
No, we try to do a bit of everything.
If it was your last meal…what would be your last meal?
Ooh, that’s hard. Now that I’ve mentioned raclette, I want to say raclette but I think that it would be the hachi parmentier. It’s a little like cottage pie. It’s minced beef with mashed potatoes. It remains my favourite dish.
Is it from your region in France?
No, it’s not from my region but it’s always been a family dish. A dish that mums or grandparents make in a big dish and everyone…
Everyone serves themselves… I’ve also seen that you do a chocolate sphere?
Yes we do that. Here, we have two hot chocolates. The normal one and a chocolate sphere which is filled with chocolate and a marshmallow and the idea is to pour your hot milk over the sphere and it melts, you can stir the chocolate in to have a bit of theatre in your hot chocolate.
And you’ve said that the flan pâtissier is your favourite gâteau but which one sells the most at Maison Clément?
It’s difficult to say but the flan pâtissier is one of the best sellers as is the tarte au citron. We’ve always got that.
I think that everyone likes that.
Yes, I think it was the favourite gâteau in France last year too.
Maison Clément is open:
Mondays to Thursdays from 7:30am to 4:30pm
Fridays from 7:30am to 9pm
Saturdays from 8am to 3pm.
Maison Clément is located in the Adelaide Central Market in the arcade which goes from the Supreme Court into the markets. It’s right next door to Haighs.
What’s your favourite French gâteau?