Sweets are back and great pastry making is flying high. France’s pastry chefs are now considered as important as chef-stars; in Italy they mix with high-end fashion, and the English fell under their spell. Maybe it’s because of the depression.
The trend is official in France, which is natural considering France wouldn’t be France without its “pâtisserie”. Things have changed in the last couple of years and pastry chefs don’t feel as intimidated by “salty” chefs. The keyword is: creative innovation. Daring flavors, interesting shapes and visually enticing packaging. Pierre Hermé, number one on Paris’ list, is famous for macarons you can cut with a blow or ones made with foie gras; the Japanese Sadaharu Aoki is known for his minimalism; Christophe Adam for his éclair with caramelized popcorn; Ladurée for its pop colors; Carl Marletti for his cabaret style Paradiso Latino. There is huge coverage. You can find their publications in any bookstore. They bake and host tv shows - Gateau of my dreams where pastry chefs go to private houses same as nannies, to tv shows like Who will be the next pastry chef? They also open boutiques: there were five new luxury openings in Paris only last fall. “Sweet Food” kiosks: “Choux d’enfer” – a partnership between chef Alain Ducasse and the head pastry chef champion Christophe Michalak - opened in the 15th arrondissement last January. Also “Chou-DS” and “Chou-colat croustillant”, as well as the ephemeral bar-à-choux only for Easter by head pastry chef Philippe Conticini.
This is not only happening outside the Tour Eiffel: other European countries, Italy and Great Britain, also offer luxurious pastries as an alternative to magnificent gastronomy. This is the crucial point: sweets have always been the “comfort food” and while the world is living through a financial crisis, sweets can give to people what they want at small comforting prices. Desserts have always symbolized pure pleasure. What’s more luxurious than pure pleasure? Branded pastries are the small luxury you need in times of crisis, the well-deserved icing sugar in shades of raspberry.
It’s not just about demand, but, when it comes to the depression brands and companies are as concerned as their customers. Italy’s luxury sector, especially high-fashion, is now baked inside a panettone. Last year, panettone, pandoro, chocolate and other traditional sweets have increased sales by 14 percent. Tourists don’t mind packing them in their suitcases on top of high-fashion clothing while traveling back to Hong Kong and Dubai, and Prada just bought the historic Milanese pastry shop Marchesi after recently opening a café at Harrod’s; Cova – another Milanese historical establishment - was bought by LVMH, the French mega luxury holding with Louis Vuitton, Dior, Guerlaine and Veuve Cliquot under its belt. Haute Patisserie and Haute Couture mix, companies are trying to invest in products other than fashion, managers move from fashion to food thanks to proven distribution chains. Giorgio Armani, in collaboration with the chocolatier Venchi, created a line of pastries; Roberto Cavalli sells pralines. It’s a new Dolce Vita at everyone’s reach, but not for everyone.