My Dubai clientele is very sophisticated and epicurean: Chef Yann Couvreur

Celebrity chef on bringing his French pastries to the city, reinterpreting the humble millefeuille and why cookbooks are relevant in a digital age


Ambica Sachin

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Published: Wed 29 Mar 2023, 5:09 PM

Legend has it that when Chef Yann Couvreur was a child growing up at the edge of a forest in Paris, he used to encounter a mysterious red fox. The little boy so identified himself with the forest creature (they both shared the same red hair!) that foraged and feasted on a lot of produce like fruits, plants and berries, all part of his work today, that he decided to make it the logo for his pastry brand.

With patisseries across France and the US and South Korea as well as UAE, Chef Yann Couvreur has today carved a nice for himself as a French pastry maker par excellence. And the fact that it is the quintessential French dessert, the vanilla millefeuille that catapulted his career - his version was awarded “Dessert of the Year” by LEBEY guide - showcases that simplicity is at the heart of the success of this pastry maker.

In Dubai recently to launch his limited edition pastries, the celebrity chef and author who has outlets Yann Couvreur Patisserie at the Ground Floor, Fashion Avenue in Dubai Mall and the Ground Floor, Offices 3 Building, One Central, opened up to us on pastries, passion and more:

Yann's award winning vanilla millefeuille
Yann's award winning vanilla millefeuille

Pastries have a very elitist label. They are exquisite works, often requiring long hours behind the scenes and relegated to the very end of a meal. How do you see it and, more importantly, why did you choose to specialize in this area?

Dessert comes at a time in a meal when you feel full, which makes it more challenging. That's why I try to create light and not very sweet desserts to finish in beauty.

In a city like Paris where there are dozens of pastry shops, how did you make yours stand out?

We approached our patisserie as a very choreographed brand from the start with a real identity with the fox as a logo, which helped us a lot because it is easily identifiable and endearing. In addition, our recipes are created with great care, and we have taken the decision to offer a relaxed service and setting in popular neighborhoods, which has brought us closer to people and given us a more accessible image.

Outside Paris, you have stores in the United States, South Korea, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. As for Dubai, how do you find your clientele? Is it easy to cater to an international palate here?

I have found our Dubai clientele to be a large and diverse cultural melting pot. This clientele is very sophisticated and epicurean with a discerning palate and a love of good food, so for us to put a lot of care and detail into our recipes is ideal.

Yann with his favourite trademark red fox
Yann with his favourite trademark red fox

Your vanilla mille-feuilles are said to be works of art. Is this the true test for a chef: to make something so simple and common that everyone goes crazy over it?

It's a real satisfaction for me to have reinterpreted a monument of pastry heritage. It's a real signature for me today, it's the customers who have elected it as such. The more a chef is singularized by his creations, the more unique he becomes and the more soul he brings to the world of pastry.

Emily in Paris has not only put the city of Paris in the global spotlight, it has also rekindled the love of French cuisine and pastry around the world. How do you see its effect on your business?

I must confess that I haven't seen this series but if it has put French craftsmanship back on the international stage then that is a very good thing.

The closing of Noma is considered a blow to fine dining restaurants. Rene Redzepi said the grueling hours and work pressure had become unbearable. What does this mean for gastronomy?

Some restaurants are now deciding to open only at lunchtime or in the evening because of the hours and the pressure. However, the charges remain the same so I think that sad to say, eating out could soon become a luxury if it is not already the case. In a way, it will revalue the work of restaurant owners.

You have a cookbook. In the age of social media, where people search for recipes online, how do you position a cookbook?

The publication of my books was not a real commercial approach, I am the son of a bookseller, and it was important to me to do it because I have a special attachment to books. I think that there is still a clientele very attached to reading recipes from a book just as there are still many who prefer to purchase physical books vs. e-books, we sell them very well, which makes me think that I am not completely wrong.

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