Over in Blighty, Mary Berry and the Great British Bake Off have sent us all a little cake crazy. Across the Channel in France, sensational patisserie has never been out of fashion. I often witness overwhelmed tourists drooling at the sight and scent of a French patisserie window. I know, I’ve been one of them.
French patisserie chefs are something of artists. The foundation of their art is made up of the obligatory classics. In Cherbourg, at the tip of Normandy’s Cotentin peninsula, there’s a new chef in town who’s making waves in the patisserie world.
For Jean-François Foucher, sticking to an orthodox take on the classics is just not enough. His tag-line l’imagination gourmande accurately describes his approach. With bags of imaginative and playful creativity, he reinvents the classics and conjures up a few Foucher originals for good measure.
Originally from Bordeaux, Foucher arrived in Normandy by way of Paris, Japan, the U.S.A and Argentina where he worked in an impressive portfolio of 5* hotels. His sweet creations are the product of these years abroad with exotic ingredients and Japanese minimalism and precision as his hallmark.
It was a Friday morning when I popped into his shop and salon de the and as I sampled a chocolate or two, there was a steady stream of customers buying cakes, chocolates and macaroons. It seems that a Foucher cake is the ultimate present for a dinner host in these parts and macaroons are favourite gifts at any time.
On the counter top were piles of fresh and flaky croissants, chauson au pomme and brioche alongside rows of yummy canelé with their dark caramalised crust and gooy custard centre – a delicacy of Foucher’s native Bordeaux.
Under the counter are the more reworked, decadent cakes. A new take on the éclair, a Paris Brest and a Saint-Honoré, Foucher’s most popular creation, are the most recognisable. Their presentation is simple, modern and utterly beautiful – it would seem a shame to eat any of these.
Branching out from patisserie, Foucher has now developed a line of chocolates. Quality cocoa is paired with wasabi, roibos, angelica and cardammon amongst other exotic herbs, flowers and spices. I tried the violet and it was sensational.
The Foucher brand is growing quickly. There’s now another boutique open near Deauville, catering for weddings and events is in high demand throughout the region and Foucher has been solicited for consulting services as far away as Shanghai.
If you’re inspired to learn from the master, Jean-Francois offers half-day workshops where you learn to make the perfect éclair or fruit tart. Just in time for a chance of next season’s Bake Off!
The Patisserie, Chocolaterie and Salon de Thé in Cherbourg is open every day (times vary).
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, and for a list of all of the main food festivals in the region, please visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.
Text and all photos © Maggie McNulty / Normandy Tourist Board