Un Dimanche à Paris :: In the Kitchen, Part I
To my knowledge, Un Dimanche à Paris is the only pâtisserie in Paris where you can actually watch the pastries being made, inches in front of you. Just off to the left of the boutique is the glass-walled kitchen in which chef pâtissier Quentin Bailly, his trusted sidekicks Thomas and Maxime, and their assistants toil away at assorted gâteaux, crèmes, guimauves and more. Of course, as perhaps the finest patron of their work, they’re cool with letting me get even closer . . . allowing me to practically jam my lens straight into the sweets. Literally, look at the top shot. Could I possibly be any closer to that glistening pool of ooey gooey ganache? No.
We’ll come back around to Thomas’s work with liquid chocolate in just a bit, but for now let’s check out what he’s doing with chocolate in baked form. Below, you can see him checking on the interior of an ingot (yes, ingot) of brownie. Or, wait, I guess I should use the French term . . . le brownie 😉 Honestly, I could never tell if their elongated brownie format was just their playful take on the American invention or if it’s like that time Quentin told me he and his mentor once had a big hit with a dessert made primarily of thin slices of strawberries in maple syrup. My guess is that it was more the latter – unintentionally quirky, but certainly no less tasty.
Looking at the below, I can tell why my friend Julie is a little in love with Thomas. What young lady wouldn’t want a nice French guy to bake her brownies every day? But since Julie hasn’t snapped him up yet, I believe Thomas is still single, ladies. He’s admittedly a bit shy, but the shop’s director, Perrine, has told me on several occasions that he, “has the body of a gymnast.” So I highly recommend that, should you see him in the kitchen, you tap on the glass and say hi. It’s sure to embarrass him incredibly, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?!
As for me, I’m still waiting for them to get a pretty patissière for whom I can pine away. I’ll then win her over and bring her back to the States, where she’ll start a successful pastry shop and keep me morbidly obese with authentic French sweets. Fingers crossed.
Ah, and what do we have here? Are these the cookies, les cookies, or les sablées? Un Dimanche has a bit of a fluidity with their naming, given the number of English speaking tourists they receive every day; it could be any one of those three. And, more significantly, since the kitchen prepares work for both the boutique AND the restaurant, I actually have no idea what these little guys are being prepared for, much less what they’re calling them.
Here comes Maxime with even more pastries I’ve never seen in the boutique. Since I shot these particular photos in the late afternoon, all the shop pastries had long since been prepared. Virtually everything the team was working here was for the dinner service. The guys prep as much as they can, then Qunetin rolls in around 4 or so to help them finish-up and to prep some of the fancy chocolate work that will be plated in the evening. After all, Un Dimanche just received a 3 fourchette rating in the Michelin guide, so there’s much swankiness for the guys to maintain.
Moving right from brownies to éclairs, Thomas started prepping his neon green pastry bag with healthy globs of pâte à chou, while Maxime carefully measured and cut out their to-be-applied croustillant topping.
Thomas is lightning fast with his piping…
And he does it all with perfect form. Look at the position of those feet.
It’s more like pâte à yum . . .
Getting back to where we started this entry, here we have Thomas’s assistant pouring out the ganache. I believe the kid had only just started working at Un Dimanche within the last couple weeks before I did the shoot, so Thomas was not shy about bossing him around. “Faster!” …. “No, pour slower!” … “Not that slow. Faster!” The poor kid. I’m exaggerating though; Thomas actually handled it very nicely. He’s a much kinder mentor than some other chefs I’ve seen. Oh, the stories I could tell [and never will].
The below might be one of my favorite photos ever. That expression of Maxime’s face is priceless – a smug, self-satisfaction that says, “**** yeah. That was a sweet cut there. I am a master of the blade and all it touches!”
Can you imagine working this close with your colleagues? What’s wild is that they’re actually in fairly spacious conditions + have a really nice view of both the shop and the concourse outside. I’m not sure if they’d really want to handle all that work alone either. The only guy there who does actually like to go solo is Quentin, who arrived just as the guys were finishing up their gâteau trimming here…
Quentin checked in with the team for a minute and then had me follow him upstairs. It was chocolate time! But since I can’t do a 20 or 30 photo entry today, and because I want to build some suspense, I’ll just have to tease you with the photo below. What could Quentin be working on? . . .
I’ll guess you’ll just have the come back on Wednesday, when I’ll let you in on Quentin’s chocolate exploits. And then we’re skipping ahead a few hours to see him in full form at the height of dinner service – plating all the restaurant’s pastries in a fevered whirlwind of decadent sweets and gold leaf. I’m pretty confident it’s going to dazzle you into immediately making a reservation at Un Dimanche.