Le Petit Prince Patisserie finished up 2017 with 3 Taste of Dorset Awards.
Best Independent Tea Room or Café, Best Bakery and Best Food or Drink Business of the Year which was selected from the list of winners! We thought the time was right to head down and chat with Michael about all things Le Petit Prince Patisserie.
The first shop had 3 tables and a coffee machine, 1 chef…and me. There were three of us when we opened and I was doing the night baking and the pastries and then the cheffing – I was involved in the whole lot. After 6 months we realised we were doing very well and needed to expand, but we didn’t have either the space of the money at that point. So we spoke to the landlady and put an extension on the rear. After about a year we realised it was working, I started employing more staff and we doubled overnight!
I think because of my background working in hotels and teaching and what have you…there’s an attention to detail, but also knowing what you need to do to get that point of difference. We’re not just going to make a tuna mayo sandwich, I wouldn’t dream of doing anything like that. We want to try and be a bit more fun and keep changing up various options; veggie, vegan, gluten-free. We want to fit the vibe of the place, we’re not going to be a restaurant, we offer certain things and I suppose that was my original aim.
Someone might come in and they might have a nice coffee, maybe with a pastry, or they’ll take a cake home or a loaf of bread. We’re lucky there are lots of strings to our bow.
Staffing is an ongoing thing that affects you all the time. You will never have a great business without the support of your staff. In Westbourne, most of the staff have been there since we opened which is really nice. It gives you stability and you need that, the customers like it as well. You want that nice relaxed feel you get when everyone is happy, and the customers feel that as well. And I wouldn’t say it’s a skill I’ve learned, it’s a learning curve, it’s ongoing.
One year, when I was working at The Grosvenor House, I was only about 19 and it was close to Christmas. We usually did Christmas decorations, but no one could be bothered, we’d all been out the night before. Anyway, I looked around the kitchen and found a lot of pumpkins which would make perfect snowmen. So we covered them in royal icing, made them look like snowmen and put them out, on the Christmas display on the buffet. I was working on Christmas Day and didn’t think much about it, and I got a phone call. The pressure had built up inside and the pumpkins had exploded. There was royal icing and pumpkin all over the place!
If you were going to take home a loaf of bread then it would be our 3-kilo loaf on a Saturday called the Westbourne and Wimbourne Prince. It’s a really good loaf. We cut it into quarters, halves or you can take a whole one and it really lasts. You’d think because it’s cut it wouldn’t last, but it doesn’t. It’s got Rye, Spelt, Wholemeal and White flours and it’s a sourdough. You make it in a massive basket and it takes 1.5 hours to bake and we do it every Saturday. I’m passionate about that.
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