L’Opéra, India’s first authentic French Pâtisserie, Boulangerie and Salon de Thé has always been known for the impeccable quality of its products.

In order to maintain the exacting standards of perfection and elegance, L’Opéra has consistently invested in distinguished culinary experts from France to work the magic into the kitchen.  In the past, L’Opéra invited over renowned names such as Chef Jean-Louis Clément who has also worked with Lenôtre. Founded by the famous Chef Gaston Lenôtre, who is widely known to have rejuvenated the art of pastry making in the early 1960s, the brand boasts of restaurants, catering, retail and a cooking school, which embodies French savoir-vivre and savoir-faire, especially in the art of pastry. It has also trained famous French chefs including Pierre Hermé, one of the leading pastry chefs who was also awarded the title of World’s Best Pastry Chef in 2016.

Chef Gilles Maisonneuve

This time around, the founders have called in Chef Gilles Maisonneuve. A Lenôtre alumni, Chef Gilles has worked and studied under Chef Clément and has over 30 years of experience in the pastry industry. He has conducted numerous demonstrations and was responsible for the creation of the dessert menu at Hotel Ritz, Paris as Deputy Head Pastry Chef.

He later moved to The French School of Gastronomy called Ritz Escoffier in Paris. Over the years, he developed training programs for French Culinary Art in Japan, Brazil, and the United States of America. After Ritz Escoffier, Chef Gilles continued his career as a Professor & Pastry Consultant. He also developed the “Masterclass” Intensive Training Program and created “The Art of Macarons” course, which won the European Grand Prix for Innovation Awards in 2005.

“The reason behind inviting the foreign culinary experts periodically is to maintain the authenticity of our products and enhance our customers’ experience. Last time, Chef Clément was kind enough to add his years of valuable experience to our products. This time, Chef Gilles added his Midas touch and we really appreciate his presence,” says Kazem Samandari, Executive Chairman, L’Opéra that was born out of the founding family’s longing for authentic French breads and pastries in India. Since its inception in 2008, the family ensured that the patrons enjoy a complete and authentic French experience and is now setting a new trend in the Indian market for high-end culinary products.

Chef Gilles at L’Opéra’s production facility in Noida.

Back at the production facility in Noida, Chef Gilles is involved in a lot of things right from working with chefs on improving presentation to introducing new products at L’Opéra. “I find people here very hard-working. They want to see, understand and learn new things which is very important,” says the ever-smiling Chef as he puts together a new product.

“After working in their kitchen for quite some time, I can say that it is commendable,” says the Chef. “For example, the chocolate discs or rings around the Mango Mousse Tart is impeccable. The glazing technique is perfect in terms of the movement and precision. They have stuck to the traditional French recipes. That is quite impressive, he adds. “I personally liked the Opéra cake, Mille Feuille and Lemon Tart. I am focusing on the design and presentation such as slimmer pastries for a better presentation and re-adjusting ingredients for proportions. Then I am also working on new products for L’Opéra using coconut, seasonal and exotic fruits which will be revealed over time.”

To better understand the brand, Chef Gilles visited several of L’Opéra’s outlets at Green Park, Bikaner House and Max Towers, Noida at the outset of the project . “I must say that the outlets are as French as it could get. The music, the ambience as well as the products transport you back to France instantly. So, it’s imperative that the food quality resonates with the ambience and the fact that L’Opéra pulled it off despite the warm climate and other challenges is really impressive,” says the Chef.

For Chef Asees Shah Singh, Head Pastry Chef at L’Opéra, it is always a learning experience to work with the visiting chefs. “With Chef Gilles, I saw interesting things like Inverted puff pastry where the butter is the outer layer and the dough is folded inside. He also laid emphasis on adequate temperatures, time and techniques while prepping for specific puff pastry products that showed great results when executed in the exact same manner,” he says.

(From left) Laurent, Christine and Kazem Samandari

To Chef Gilles, training young chefs is all about passing on the teachings that he received from his teachers to the next generation.

“I always underline the importance of respecting the products, maintaining hygiene ]and cleanliness of the workstation and tools at all times and keeping the look and taste of products uniform all through in terms of shapes and ingredients,” he continues.

Work apart, Chef Gilles, who is visiting India for the first time, is also upbeat about visiting the Taj Mahal.

“For me, India is all about colors. I found people here polite and helpful and the best thing is the Taj Mahal which I wish I could make time for during my stay,” he says.

 

-By Anupma Mishra, L’Opéra