If you ask chef Carole Lesquer what makes her happy, she’ll answer you in a heartbeat: being in her kitchen. It may sound like a simple enough pleasure, yet, as the chef tells us, her path to this happiness – “to getting where I am today” – was a long and arduous one. After all, it’s true what they say: Nothing worth having comes easy.
Carole Lesquer fondly remembers the wonderful earthy smell of buckwheat in her Breton grandmother’s kitchen and the mouth-watering apple and salted butter caramel pie that her grandmother used to make. “I loved making sweet pastry with her, and especially handling all the ingredients.” After leaving school, Carole earned a degree in Spanish and went into teaching. But, aged 25, she started having second thoughts about her chosen career and asked herself a simple question: What job would actually make me happy? The answer was obvious, tucked away in her childhood memories of her grandmother’s kitchen: being a pastry chef.
Certain that this was the right career for her, Carole enrolled at the École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie – the pastry arts school run by Alain Ducasse and Yves Thuriès, two of the most influential chefs in the culinary world – where she obtained her “CAP Pâtisserie” vocational qualification in patisserie and confectionery.
Carole was ambitious and determined to acquire as many skills and techniques as possible, and so continued her training, obtaining a sandwich diploma in pastry-making, followed by a BTM (state-recognised vocational certificate) in pastry-making, chocolate-making, ice-cream-making and catering, as well as a number of work placements in patisseries along the way. “Those were difficult years for me, because I found myself training and working alongside more experienced students who were ten years younger than me.” Carole is indebted to the steadfast support of her family for helping her through this challenging period.
“The job has helped me rediscover what I love about my work and a taste for the simple things in life. All I want is to be happy and to make others happy too.”
At last, at almost 30 years old, Carole was ready to launch herself into the unknown: the professional world of catering and “plated desserts”. Her very first experience in this realm was with two-star Michelin chef, Christophe Aribert. “Working as a pastry chef and designing the dessert menus for Christophe Aribert’s restaurants was a huge step for me.” And one that quickly proved a real shock to the system: “The pace was intense, extremely demanding. I learnt a lot during my three years in the job but, quite frankly, it was gruelling,” she tells us. What she did get from it, though, was a taste for pepper, herbs and spices which she still uses in her culinary creations today.
The desire to constantly learn drove her to seek out a new challenge. This led her to Chantilly, and the kitchens of the largest Relais & Châteaux hotel in France, run by Michelin star chef Julien Lucas. Lucas gave her carte blanche, which allowed her to develop her culinary identity and really come into her own. When he decided to open his own restaurant in Luxembourg, Carole didn’t hesitate to go with him. But after five months of haute cuisine at La Villa de Camille et Julien, it was time for her to move on. “I needed to take a break, to take stock and to get back to my professional roots.”
Winning the title of Gault & Millau’s “Pastry Chef of the Year 2021” gave Carole the professional credibility that, ironically, helped her make this move. For two years, she ran the not-for-profit association Tricentenaire’s Patisserie (Tridoc catering service and tea room), to “simply” work as a pastry chef. During this time, she also set up her consulting business, Coup de Pousse. It was through her consultancy work that the chef collaborated with the owners of Flûte alors! to create the restaurant’s desserts. “When they offered me the position of head chef, I jumped at the opportunity.”
This would be quite the challenge for Carole, who had never worked as a head chef before. “The job has helped me rediscover what I love about my work and a taste for the simple things in life. All I want is to be happy and to make others happy too.” Carole has enjoyed designing a 100% plant-based menu of inventive fruit and vegetable dishes that blur the boundaries between savoury and sweet. “My cuisine is delicate and poetic, telling a story on the plate.”
After six months in her new role, Carole Lesquer smiles as she reflects on her career as a chef: “When I’m in my kitchen, there’s absolutely nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.” Quite simply.
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