How do you usually celebrate special occasions?
I am sure the first thing that comes to your mind is probably a cake.
While living in Hong Kong, I usually arrange desserts from restaurants as it is hard to find authentic Western desserts in shops. This was true, till Le Dessert launched their signature Pavlova in town.
While engaging with a conversation with Julia Liotard-Vogt, Bluebell Group Business Development Director, French who has been living in Asia for 10 years, we ended up talking about desserts, and she mentioned Le Dessert.
Julia told Retail in Asia that she had first tried Le Dessert’s Pavlova at friends’ places, and after a couple of weeks, she finally met one of the founders, Julien. The perks of living in HK, such as small world!
Julia explained to Retail in Asia that she was impressed by the high quality of the Pavlova and the extreme attention to details in the presentation. As she had previously worked for a gourmet brand, she was keen to find out who were the people behind Le Dessert and eventually she bumped into one of them at an event.
Finally, Retail in Asia decided to give space to the two entrepreneurs delighting Asian consumers with new desserts.
We met Julien de Préaumont, Co-founder & CEO to know more about the adventure he embarked on with his Co-founder & Pastry Chef, Alexis Watrin.
RiA: What is the story behind Le Dessert and its concept?
Julien: I came to Hong Kong as an executive for a company operating in the technology industry, so I had nothing to do with the F&B industry.
While commuting from home to work on the MTR, I realized how many advertisements of desserts I was bumping into in the MTR, probably the only city with so much sweets all around. Therefore, I considered that being a sign of how much Hong Kong people love sweets.
However, to me, as a foreigner, all those desserts look very similar. I thought it would be interesting to bring something different to the city, something simple but of high quality.
That is when I met Chef Alexis Watrin who, at the time, was the Executive Chef of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Together we created this concept based on 3 pillars: French, Fluffy and Fresh.
We wanted to give a modern twist to French pastry by offering generous fluffy recipes with airy Chantilly whipping cream. Also, we wanted to offer ultra fresh cakes made “à la minute” because we believe Hong Kong people, like French people, understand the value of freshness.
We thought that Pavlova would be a good signature dessert to represent our brand so we spent several months working on the recipe, making sure the meringue was not too sweet and had the right texture (crusty outside and soft inside). Then we started working for prestigious fashion brands before opening our first store in Lab Concept (Admiralty). That is how it all started!
RiA : How does Le Dessert fit into Hong Kong market?
Julien: Le Dessert offers the freshest pastries in Hong Kong. All our products and prepared onsite.
Everyday our pastry chefs cut fresh fruits, whip fresh creams and assemble the dessert right before the eyes of our customers.
This is our main differentiator. But also I believe we give a modern twist to French pastry. Quality French pastry in HK has always been about very sophisticated desserts made by star Chefs in luxury hotels. But in France you can find fresh and tasty dessert at every corner. So we want to bring this form of accessibility and generosity to Hong Kong.
RiA: How do you see the pastry market in HK and Asia overall?
Julien: The bakery market is booming in Asia and pastry is a major contributor to this growth. Although everyone is obsessed with healthy living, Asian people cherish those times of celebration when they can indulge themselves with friends and family. This is the exact meaning of Le Dessert in French. It is the last part of the meal where you just enjoy the present moment.
RiA: You focus on a few specific products which carry a strong French identity, how do you think this contributes to Le Dessert?
Julien: Le Dessert is a French brand born in Hong Kong. We use French ingredients like our cream from the Normandie region and we claim our French pastry heritage but we are not constraints in any way. Our signature Pavlova is a good illustration. The original recipe is actually from Australia, but meringue and Chantilly cream are from the French pastry tradition. When we designed it we gave it a very Parisian look. Same for our jar desserts, we designed them to fit in Hong Kong people’s very active lifestyle.
RiA: What is the customer profile you have been serving and what’s your new focus?
Julien: Our customers are 80% Hong Kong people and 20% expats. It is a majority of women whose profile range from the young millennial craving for new up and coming desserts in Hong Kong to ladies who want to surprise guests at their dinner parties.
RiA: Valentine’s Day is coming up. Anything special coming up?
Julien: Our large celebration Pavlovas are getting a very good word of mouth currently so we will probably make a special recipe or even a special format for just 2 people.
This is our first year so we have not experienced the whole cycle, but it seems Christmas and Chinese New year are definitely to best time for desserts.
RiA: What is next for Le Dessert?
Julien: We are looking to expand our footprint in Hong Kong. We are looking for pop-up locations that would make sense in terms of demographics.
Also we want to grow our catering business. Being able to have a pastry chef assemble fresh desserts during an event is very special and has proven to be very successful with the brands we worked with.
SEE ALSO : EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with LAFONT
Then good luck to Le Dessert!