Keen to turn your passion for pastry into a professional career? Pâtissier and celebrity chef Eric Lanlard shares the secrets to his success.
Eric Lanlard is an award-winning pastry chef, TV presenter and founder of patisserie, café lounge and cookery school Cake Boy, in South West London. Here he tells us all about his jam-packed schedule, from 6am starts to teaching on board cruise ships…
How did you start out in the food industry?
In France, a pastry chef is very well recognized and respected – you have to choose either to be a general chef, a pastry chef or a baker. At 18 I began training to become a pâtissier.
Describe an average working day.
I arrive at my kitchen at Cake Boy around 6am, and I’m usually the first one in. After 26 years in the business, I still get a buzz from being the first to switch on the ovens and equipment. The rest of my team will follow and we’ll prepare the pastries and cakes for the day. We offer lunch as well as coffee and patisserie – all of the sandwiches and salads are made in our kitchen too. Afterwards I will check emails and respond to various requests – often interviews, recipe ideas or development. If I’m teaching at my on-site school I will prepare my recipes and notes and then welcome my students while my fantastic team set up the classrooms. The kitchen team finish at 4pm but generally I’m rushing home to do a quick change and then off to an event – often new restaurant openings, book launches or charity events. Travel is also a big part of what I do. I create afternoon teas for P&O Cruises and teach onboard their ship Britannia, so I can be away doing that for 2-3 days at a time. I am a food ambassador for The Starwood Hotel Group so, as well as designing the Afternoon Tea for their Le Royal Meridian in Abu Dhabi, I will perform promotional duties which can be anywhere in the world. If I’m promoting a book or a TV series then I have to fit in time for promotions, book signings, speaking. Fortunately I love what I do!
What do you like most about your job?
I really enjoy the teaching – passing on my industry knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to cake and baking fans, and to my peers.
Is there anything you dislike about your job?
I don’t think there is anything really. I do get a little frustrated with the way that in the UK we don’t always reward excellence. I am passionate about my industry and think it’s important that we keep standards high and do not dumb down.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
Too many to list but here’s a starter: having eight books published, four TV series, meeting the Queen at the launch of the P&O Cruise Ship Britannia and of course opening my patisserie and cookery school, Cake Boy, nine years ago.
What would you say has been the driving force behind your huge success?
It’s what I had wanted to do from the age of six. I come from a small town in Brittanny called Quimper. I trained at the best patisserie in the town and had a wonderful mentor. For me there was never any doubt or choice – I was born to do it!
You’ve baked incredible cakes for countless A-listers – do you have a favourite creation to date?
Everyone is different and each occasion is special so it’s hard to choose – it’s a little bit like being asked to name a favourite child! One that sticks out is a cake that we created for someone who was going to retire and travel the world. We designed a beautiful celebration cake that mimicked Louis Vuitton vintage trunk boxes. We then decorated it with motifs from the customer’s life. It was so personal and a showstopper. We have an open-plan area so the cake was being put together in full view of the customers, and they were very impressed with the design.
What would your advice be to young people looking to get their foot in the door?
Be focused, be dedicated and work hard. There are no shortcuts. Listen, learn and be humble. Take your time to choose where you would like to do your training. It’s important to master techniques and recipes but also furnish yourself with knowledge on the business side of the industry.
Which skills and personality traits does someone need to develop to become a pâtissier?
Baking is a science so you’ll need to be precise, have an eye for detail, be creative and have a sense of humour but most of all have enthusiasm and energy.