In 2016 Ed and I decided that we would move to Lyon this year. It’s the food capital of France, so what better place for me to find work? We decided to visit Lyon in September 2016 to get a taste of it, and work out which neighbourhood we wanted to live in.
I was looking forward to it because a) most obviously, we were planning on moving to this city and b) we had been told over and over again by friends and acquaintances that it was a beautiful, bubbling place. After a couple of days I started feeling gradually disheartened as we walked around the town. It was pretty, but it was quiet, and aside from eating and shopping, which are excellent for a holiday, there didn’t seem like there was enough there to sustain a life. We were there towards the end of Summer (ie perfect weather) so I can’t even blame that. It was – and I’m using this word intentionally because I have strong, opinions around this adjective – nice. It was nice. Plain toast. Un-nutella’d croissant. Just nice; no more and no less.
I had started putting feelers out there for jobs too, as I was handing out resumes. While the patisseries were beautiful, there were far fewer than I had envisaged. I distinctly remember walking back from a patisserie with Ed, both of us just in our own thoughts. Ed said, “Zahara I think if we’re going to make a big leap like this, we should move to Paris instead”. I was starting to form that idea, but I was too scared to pursue it because a) Paris is huge b) I had my mind set on Lyon for so long, so this was deviating from the plan, which I’m not inclined to do.
It turns out that Lyon was definitely the gastronomy capital, but not necessarily the patisserie capital. We weren’t moving from Melbourne to seek a quieter life. So Paris it was. I took a deep breath in, exhaled and succinctly expressed my actual feelings towards Lyon, (which I won’t repeat here because I know my Mama reads my blog) and we decided on Paris. We visited Paris next, and everything we felt was highlighted, underlined and sealed. And we haven’t looked back.
ZAHARA YOU LIAR.
In October, shortly after returning and on a high because hey, we were about to move to Paris, one of my bosses told me that the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie (Patisserie world cup) was being held in France. In Lyon. My first thought was, ‘How in God’s name does a Patisserie World Cup exist?’. The Quidditch World Cup sounds more rational. My second thought is better described as more of a feeling, ie my heart sank.
I physically put my head in my hands when I told Ed that night; HOW did I misread that situation? Especially after being so arrogant in my opinions towards Lyon and if I could pursue my patisserie career there. That’ll learn me for having ill-formed views. In any case, we packed our things up and stuck to the Paris plan.
Ed suggested that we do a road trip to Lyon to watch the competition because part of this year is taking advantage of opportunities that I wouldn’t necessarily have in Melbourne (such as watching some of the most talented Pâtissiers from all parts of the world, working right in front of you).
The pompous, white-jacketed glory of this event was glee-inducing. The music to introduce the finalists was akin to a hybrid between the theme music of Survivor and Game of Thrones. Apt. There were supporters dressed in gold spandex onesies (looking at you, Japan), faces painted in the colours of their countries, giant flags, and hoards of people. Towards the end of both days the stadium was full, and people were spilling into the aisles.
We sat with the Japanese supporters because why not. Best decision ever because their chants were the most thoughtful and also they had accompanying choreographed dance moves. While the other countries just yelled and hooted with some chants thrown in there, Japan had placards spelling out the names of each of their chefs. Also, each country had chosen a theme that was explored through their creations. Japan’s was Jazz Frog. What is that? Who is that? I am yet to understand but it makes me so happy. They were also the loveliest supporters. For example, they cheered for other teams that had fewer or no supporters. They also chanted ‘bon appetit’ each time the judges started tasting their team’s work.
France, on the other hand, just got in there and started honking every time another team’s work or chefs were announced. There was one French supporter in particular who was David Boon’s doppelganger, and he was way too old for an air horn, but age be damned, that didn’t stop him. WHY? JUST WAIT FOR YOUR BLOODY TURN PLS.
I just remembered another French supporter who still makes me giggle when I think about her. Without a word of a lie, she was jumping up and down and was about 4 seconds away from ripping off her underwear, which I can only imagine matched her French flag bandana, and flinging it at the French Pâtissiers. This was the level of support I’m trying to convey.
There were 22 teams competing in the finals (11 each day) and each team had to do a chocolate entremet a frozen berry entremet (3 copies of each) a plated dessert (15 plates), and three sculptures; ice, chocolate and sugar. All within 8 hours. Most of it was either stunning or mind blowing, with a few gasp-worthy moments. Switzerland’s theme, for example, was Dracula. Imagine a rectangular shaped cake. When cut into, there were two red dots that looked like bite marks through each slice which ‘bled’ berry gel. Take a look through these beautiful (link to https://www.finedininglovers.com/blog/news-trends/coupe-du-monde-de-la-patisserie-2017/) photos from the Fine Dining Lovers blog. That Swiss one is in there. In the through the middle of one of England’s cakes was a logo of the London Tube. I can’t find decent photos of this one so you’ll just have to go with my incredible abilities of description.
Denmark’s plated dessert was the Golden Snitch, in line with their Harry Potter theme. My deep love for Harry Potter aside, this was my favourite one. I mean, the dessert had little wings on it. Below is the worst photo of it (I took it, you’re welcome), and I can’t find any better photos on the internets.
There were also 5 commentators through the day; Andras, Vincent, Amandine, Angela and Allison. And some ever-so-slightly misogynistic banter. I’m pretty sure there were only 5 or 6 female pâtissieres competing out of the 90-odd chefs, so it was always going to be discussed. Just perhaps not in the exact way that it panned out.
I lost track of the number of ‘OH MY GOD’s that came out of Ed’s mouth, but below are a few choice examples.
The same Vincent was also joking to Andras and Amandine about how he needed someone to bring him one of the desserts so he could try it. Then he exclaimed ‘I need an assistant. Amandine, come down”.
But my absolute favourite moment was between Andras and Allison. The teams had been asked what objects they had packed in their suitcase. Here, the commentators were discussing the Swedish team, which was also made up of 2 women and 2 men.
Andras (discussing one of the Pâtissiers in the team who listed a Bose speaker as one of his items that he packed): He [the chef] has taken is speaker to escape all the females.
Allison (clearly trying to change the direction): I’m sure they all work well together as a team.
Andras: Ohh no. He’s protesting the women.
*digs shovel in deeper*
In the end, after what seemed like an exceedingly long ceremony, France was announced as the winner, and the crowd obviously lost their blue, white and red marbles. My one regret is that I didn’t see the French-flag-underwear girl’s face. The fact that the stadium filled out boggles my mind, and reinstated the fact that Patisserie is basically a national interest here. I’m glad we went, because as I said earlier, when else would I be able to experience something as weird and fun as this.