Pastry Stage: Maitre Choux
Joakim Prat is a three Michelin star pastry chef. Born in France with Spanish heritage, Prat worked as pastry chef at the three Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Catalonia before moving on to work for Joel Robuchon in London at L’Atelier. Now he has his own artisan patisserie, Maitre Choux, in two locations: South Kensington and Soho.
This is another example of the cross pollination of chefs into artisans. In Paris, it has been going on for some time. There, chefs have a long history of opening up on their own following stints in the great kitchens. Both Pierre Hermé (patissier) and Jean-Paul Hévin (chocolatier) worked for Robuchon before becoming masters of their craft on their own.
What is different about Maitre Choux is a dedication to one area of the craft, namely choux pastry. Producing just three types - eclairs, choux a la crèmes and chouquettes - with incredible attention to detail; Joakim Prat has fast become something of a celebrity in the capital, with many proclaiming his choux as the best in London.
Maitre Choux make ten different éclairs, eight choux a la crèmes, and their chouquettes every day. The latter, a classic French breakfast pastry, is purely baked choux husks laced with crushed sugar. They live in a wooden basket by the counter and are often handed out to customers for free so they can get acquainted.
Tahitian vanilla, dark chocolate, Spanish raspberry, tiramisu and lemon meringue are just some of the éclairs on offer, with the violet wild berry and salted butter caramel among the variety of choux buns.
Joakim’s roots come out via the Basque hot chocolate, created with spice to his grandmother’s secret recipe.
“Being a pastry chef is such a delicate art. You need such precision,” he told me when I staged with him in his South Kensington outpost. “I never wanted to be a standard chef - you have to be so fast. I like to take my time and make it perfect.”
Joakim Prat, with Maitre Choux, demonstrates that if you specialise as a chef and really master a simple, traditional recipe then it can take you far beyond the world of being just a pastry chef.
Today, skills equal money in the bank and Joakim Prat is not just a brilliant pastry chef who has worked at the highest level; he is one that has taken his one true love and turned it into a thriving business.