Nadège Nourian is a fourth-generation pastry chef from Lyon France who co-founded Nadège Patisserie, which opened in 2009. Nadège now has five stores across the GTA, including the newly opened spot at Yorkdale Mall. We chatted about how she got her start and why she has the best job in the world.
SDTC: Did you always know you wanted to do this for a living?
NN: My family has always had a passion for food. Growing up in France, my parents had a restaurant and that’s where I discovered my love of creating food for people to enjoy. My grandparents also had a patisserie, and I was very close to my grandmother. She was amazing at making cakes, jams and chocolates. After she passed away, I had to make a bûche (traditional French dessert for Christmas) for the first time. I spent two days making it, making sure it would be as good as hers!
I have been incredibly lucky to work with amazing chefs throughout my career in France and the UK. They showed me how inspiring creating desserts could be and enabled me to unleash my creativity. After those experiences, I knew I wanted to open my own store.
Can you walk us through a day in your life?
I wake up early. I used to wake up at 3 a.m. for many years. I don’t need to go to work at that time but I still wake up early. I check and respond to emails and have a briefing with the kitchen team as soon as I arrive at our commissary. We discuss new product launches, any challenges or big events we have coming up.
I then often go to one of our five stores for a meeting or to work directly with the in-store teams to finish the design for a new in-store activation. In the office, I spend time with our HR, operations and marketing teams to discuss our strategy for upcoming initiatives. We work on a lot initiatives whether it is a seasonal dessert, a store opening or a menu launch. Our team is always thinking ahead.
At the end of the day, I pick up my son from school and we have dinner as a family. After, we play cards or sometimes even soccer in the living room of our condo! Once he is in bed, I go back online and work.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in this business?
Year 2016 was big for us. We opened our newest retail location at Yorkdale Mall and the commissary kitchen in Etobicoke. As a results of those changes, we doubled the company–it was an intense year. The Yorkdale location took a lot of focus and attention to detail; it was a beautiful space and we wanted to perfect it. When we opened, we had lineups outside the store for months!
Moving the kitchen from our Queen St. location to our commissary kitchen in Etobicoke was also a huge learning experience, as you need to find a team you trust and that will do the job as well as you would.
What is your current favourite menu item?
I love our new pink blossom cake. We created it for Mother’s Day, but it was so popular that we kept it. It is an almond biscuit with raspberry crème brulée, lemon confit, lemon cream and lemon Chantilly. I am also a big fan of our new ice cream and sorbet.
What is the trickiest pastry treat to make?
The next dessert you want to create is always the trickiest! I always have lots of ideas, but the execution for our retail stores can be challenging. Still, what I enjoy doing the most is creating the desserts we make.
Pros of working in this industry? Cons?
What I love about this industry is we make people happy. There is great satisfaction in having people enjoy the desserts you make. Food is an amazing canvas for creativity; you can do anything you want and inspiration can be found anywhere.
The challenge is that you need to be fully committed and willing to spend a majority of your time nurturing it. It is not about the money, so you need to love what you do.
Any advice to other women considering a career as a pastry chef?
If you want to become a pastry chef, ask yourself what is calling you to pursue this field. You have to be passionate, willing to work long hours, and you have to train for years. The skills you need to learn are manual and require a lot of practice.