I met Joakim Prat in his new choux shop Maître Choux in South Kensington, just opposite the Ampersand Hotel. The shop will open before the end of the month, however, I was lucky to be able to taste his éclairs and they are divine!
Joakim’s story is impressive, he was born and raised near Biarritz, in the Basque country in South West of France. He fell in love with the pastry world at the age of 15, and by the age of 29 he was already the Head Pastry Chef of 9 Michelin stars. Before starting his Maitre Choux project, he was the head pastry chef at the 2 Michelin-starred restaurant The Greenhouse in London. His first working position in London was at the 2 Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon where he has been executive pastry chef for two years. Before that he was working in Spain as Head Pastry chef in the 3 Michelin-starred restaurants Can Fabes, as well as 1 Michelin-starred Sauc and 1 Michelin-starred Hofmann restaurant in Barcelona.
Besides that we need to mention that Joakim won the golden medal for UK Best Dessert of the Year 2014 and was awarded as UK Rising Talent at UK Pastry Open World Cup 2013, both in London. Quite an impressive resume for such a young guy!
How would you introduce yourself?
I’m a representative of the new chefs' generation, young, creative and modern but with strong classic French pastry skills.
How did you enter into the pastry world?
I started working in a Relais dessert pastry shop in France when I was 15 years old. I was fascinated by this work since I was a child.
What is your secret desire/ambition?
My secret ambition would be to participate in the pastry world cup. This is one of my dreams.
What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement was managing the team of the Can Fabes at age 25 when I took the head pastry chef position for the first 3 Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain.
What/who is inspiring you?
Everything I can see in my everyday life gives me new ideas. Shops, television, street art, street markets …
In France, there are some top chefs that I really like and respect a lot, but also here in the UK there are such talented people as Martin Chiffers, Cherish Finden and Ruth Hinks who are inspiring me with their work.
What do you love most about your work?
The freedom of creation is what I love most.
What do you think is most difficult to master?
I think the artistic sugar craft skills are the most difficult to master.
What are your favourite flavours?
Chocolate is definitely one of my favourite flavours – particularly in combination with raspberry and the violets…
What is your relationship to chocolate?
I’m a big choco-lover, I have the same relation with chocolate as an alcoholic with a bottle of alcohol. I eat chocolate every day and I feel sick if I don’t! :)
You are just about to open your own shop. Tell us more about it.
I created Maitre Choux primarily out of passion. Maitre Choux is a choux pastry specialist where we bake everything fresh every day. Choux pastry is one of the most versatile bases in pastry making. It is light and airy, as well as crispy and soft. While it might seem like a simple base, it can be transformed into really delicate and fine desserts. This is what I strive to do with the éclairs and choux that I create for Maitre Choux. With a strong emphasis on visuals as well as taste and textures, Maitre Choux’ pastries aim to delight both the eyes and taste buds with very graphic and colourful creations.
Eclairs are the most sold pastry products in French patisseries and I felt like they ought to receive more exposure in the UK. The entire population of pastry addicts that are French cannot 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. My goal is to bring the finest quality desserts to the general public without having to go to expensive fancy restaurants.
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.
What chocolate do you use and why?
I use Cacao Barry chocolate because it gives a divine flavour to any chocolate creation – it has that smoothness and the creaminess of the added cocoa butter. It is wonderful and I highly recommend to try it.
What was the best chocolate dessert that you have eaten and where?
The best chocolate dessert I have ever eaten is a tasting chocolate dessert I was making when I was the head pastry chef at l’atelier de Joel Robuchon 2 Michelin stars… It was a dish composed of dark chocolate creme brûlée, chocolate ice cream, orange and cacao biscuit with a salted caramel sauce… Actually, I’m making a chocolate eclair which is one of my favourite chocolate desserts, even if it is very simple it is a very strong chocolate flavour, intense in the mouth but very light texture with the perfect balance of sugar.
What would be your final message for our readers?
I would like to transmit my passion to a wider audience inviting them to try my pastries.
You will soon be able to enjoy Joakim’s choux desserts at maitrechoux.com