Before leaving Montreal, there was one final place that Chef Stephen had insisted we visit, and that was the swank Maison Christian Faure pastry shop at the Place Royale. Open since August 2013, it has quickly gained a devoted following, thanks to the leadership of Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF), master pâtissier Christian Faure. (Note: this title is handed out every four years to top artisans in a variety of crafts—baking and pastry, but also all other types of craft, like woodwork, jewelry making, or blacksmithing).
The only meal we had available by this point was breakfast, and who can pass up a plush pastry-laden breakfast with tea? Not Miss Cheesemonger!
After passing through the glass door, my eyes swept across the large mural that adorned the entire left wall showing historical views of the Place Royale and depictions of historical bakers wearing the modern “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” collars.
Breakfast was quiet. M. Cheesemonger and I predictably took our favorite pastries—him the hazelnut éclair, and me the millefeuille. We were won over before the first bite. I loved the particularly crisp pastry layers (how do they cut those layers so perfectly, with such precise angles and no ragged edges?) and uniform, pillowy puffs of filling. How do they so lightly sweeten that hazelnut éclair filling day in and day out with marvelous consistency? We savored every single crumb from our pastries before deciding to shop for our plane ride meals at the counter.
I couldn’t stop myself from taking photos of everything, and told the friendly woman at the counter that I’d be putting them up on my blog. Her eyes lit up and she asked, “Do you want to meet the Chef? He’ll be right down!”
And so, Chef Christian descended from his school. Not really for us, but to meet a prospective student. He turned to greet me, and offered to take M. Cheesemonger and me on a tour. In the following moments, I realized that Christian Faure’s vision extends far beyond pastry.
The school has only existed for barely six months, but already, it is attracting applicants from all over the globe. The intensive program, which accepts a dozen students at a time and lasts six months, has at least 600 hours of activity (demonstrations, practice, special lectures). Chef Christian invites fellow Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, recognized masters in their crafts of chocolate, confection, and pastry, to instruct. The final exam consists of a buffet—each student prepares certain prescribed items (E.g., a chocolate sculpture, croissants, specific cakes), and is then graded on the final results.
In addition to learning the technique of pâtisserie, these students learn about enterprise and entrepreneurship. Chef Christian invites experts in social media and marketing, business planning, accounting, amongst other subjects, to teach his students how to handle the business of pastry. His goal is that they should all know how to write a business plan, how to market their product, how to track their finances. They learn that opportunity is found on a global scale; sometimes, the best jobs are in the United Arab Emirates or Singapore, not Montreal or even Paris.
Chef Christian shared with us that the accreditation process with Canadian education authorities was well underway, and that it would happen in the next year. That means that soon, the Maison Christian Faure will be able to accept international students (although it looks like there are plenty of Canadian applicants already). There is already a scholarship program in place for those who cannot afford the tuition.
We absorbed all of this information as we walked by the main demonstration kitchen, practice stations, storerooms filled with ingredients, bakers making macarons, bread, and chocolate confections, slabs of house-smoked salmon, and a Christmas tree. In the separate basement shop atelier, a part of the team of seven staff pâtissiers were there constructing pastry. There was even another of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France instructors in the back working with chocolate (So sorry! I forgot his name!).
I am so grateful to have this behind-the-scenes peek at the Maison Christian Faure. I especially love the insistence on learning business lessons as well as the technique. Best wishes to you in 2014, Chef Christian Faure! Thank you for training the next generation of fine pâtissiers!
Maison Christian Faure: 355 Place Royale; Montréal, QC H2Y 1Z6