Eric Lanlard is a Master Pâtissier and twice winner of the prestigious ‘Continental Pâtissier of the Year’ at the British Baking Awards, he has changed the face of British Patisserie both in his retail ventures and on TV. But it wasn’t always that glamourous. He was once a chef in the French Navy so I guess there is hope for us all.
I was lucky enough to meet him recently. He’s down to earth. Funny. Charming and of course incredibly dashing.
He was also so lovely to my daughters so I gave him extra brownie points for that. They,however, were not overly impressed by the star of Baking Mad but rather taken with the glittery cupcakes he kindly treated them to.
Anyway, after a wonderful masterclass on the French speciality Gateau Frasier, he kindly answered a few questions for me:
What’s the most challenging career decision you’ve made?
“I love what I do and this was my chosen career since the age of six so I’m very lucky in that respect. Opening Cake Boy was a dream but also a challenge. We opened at the height of the recession so it was tough but gradually we got there. The world’s obsession with baking has helped and of course the TV series.”
What advice would you give those looking to go into the patisserie profession?
“I would say be prepared to work hard and learn. There’s no easy route to become a good pastry chef – you have to start from the bottom upwards. I remember peeling apples for months and months! It’s a rewarding profession but it’s not an easy one and it’s often the people that you work with who have the most influence on your career.”
Cake Boy is a wonderful cake shop/lounge. What was the motivation behind it?
“Again from a very early age I knew that I wanted to own my own patisserie shop. I already had the design in my head. We needed to find a new kitchen because our lease was coming up – at the time we were a wholesale business supplying exclusively into Fortnum & Mason. We were going to give up the wholesale but continue on with the celebration cake business and needed to find a smaller kitchen. This space came up – it was a blank canvas and suddenly I was able to put my dreams into action.
My design brief ‘to myself’ was stylish and glamorous but unpretentious and not stuffy. I wanted somewhere for people to relax and enjoy beautiful cakes and desserts in a fabulous setting. I had been teaching classes at various schools and the next step was to have my own school – the space leant itself perfectly for a cookery school – so I came up with the open plan design to add that element of theatre for people coming to Cake Boy. People enjoy watching other people cook.”
You mentioned you don’t eat a lot of cake, what’s the one cake or dessert that you simply cannot say no to?
“A really well made pear tarte tatin – I will always make that at home for guests at my dinner table. I have a rule – I never take anything home from the Cake Boy kitchen – my type of cooking at home is very rustic.”
Which three people past or present would be at your afternoon tea party and why?
“Catherine Denevue – she is the epitome of French chic. Desmond Tutu – for his wisdom and sense of humour. Sir Elton John – his unpredictability will make him an interesting guest to have around.”
This really was one of the highlights of my year and so a big thank you to Eric for taking the time to answer my questions, to his Publicist, PR companies and Neilsen Massey for arranging a lovely afternoon.