In the Kitchen with Sébastien Gaudard

Kugelhopf at Sébastien Gaudard

Living and writing in Paris has provided no shortage of exceptional, memorable and even rare opportunities - chatting with my baking idol Dorie Greenspan over coffee, speaking on a food panel with David Lebovitz and Ann Mah, dining in the company of Colette co-founder Sarah Andelman at The Sporting Project dinner,  and attending a private tasting at Fouquet with a group of writers I respect certainly come to mind. 

But in truth, the simple fact that I can call Paris home is remarkable in its own right. Since my everyday isn't peppered with views of iconic landmarks, it's the infrequent moments before the Eiffel Tower or vélibing along the banks of the river while most of the city sleeps that heightens my overall experience. And this city is bubbling with magical moments - big and small - just waiting to be seized.

Sébastien Gaudard Pâtisserie

Hulking doors left ajar offer a glimpse into gardens and courtyards seldom seen. Bus detours lead passengers through delightfully unexpected neighborhoods. And superstars descend upon the Trocadéro for impromptu flash mobs. If serendipity is on your side, you might just walk into an unforgettable moment that will strengthen your connection to the city.

Tartes and pie at Sébastien Gaudard

Recently I had the unique chance to go from unwitting pastry consumer to eager observer/student in the sleek and tidy kitchens of Sébastien Gaudard, pastry chef and author whose 9-month old namesake patisserie lords over the rue des Martyrs. The speed of his ascent into the annals of traditional pastry-making have left him and his team of fourteen floored. But it takes only one visit to this elegant bakery to understand why he achieved such wild success right from the onset - he doesn't just revisit the classics, he brings them back to life, infusing new vigor into everything from the Paris-Brest and Mont Blanc to macarons and Tarte au Citron.

And if those aren't liable to tempt you, his chocolates, meringue and homespun ice cream and sorbets certainly will.

Sébastien Gaudard Pâtisserie
Meringue at Sébastien Gaudard

Before a group of us writers and bloggers, Gaudard spoke about his upbringing in a baking family (and how he never tires of the smell of crème patissière - a potent elixir of eggs, butter and vanilla) and how he always aims to follow the season's bounty when sourcing his ingredients. 

Sébastien Gaudard Finishing the Bûche de Noel

Ever the showman, Gaudard walked us through the steps to prepare one of the alcohol-piqued Bûche de Noël he will be offering for the upcoming holiday season. In between smoothing on the pâte d'amande icing and putting the final garniches on the yule log, he shared personal anecdotes from his previous stints at Fauchon and Délicabar in the Bon Marché, where he earned the nickname 'little prince of pastry'. I foolishly tried to take notes to recreate some version of his festive creation but watching him work had me transfixed.

We dipped our spoons into the leftover crème patissière as our master chef waited eagerly for our reactions and we watched in awe as his team shuffled around us in good humor to finish preparing the desserts for the rest of the day. They had completely rearranged their packed Saturday morning baking schedules to welcome us behind-the-scenes and the takeaway- aside from an entire bûche - was priceless. In the pantheon of great pâtissiers and on my own personal list of favorites,  Guadard ranks high.

Sébastien Gaudard Bûche de Noel

Sébastien Gaudard
22 rue des Martyrs
75009, Paris
Tel: 01 71 18 24 70
Métro: Notre-Dame de Lorette (line 12)

{More photos HERE}

Following similar initiatives in New York, London and Toronto among other cities, the #PricelessParis program from MasterCard France is to offer magical moments throughout the city ordinarily inaccessible for most. If you find yourself in Paris today, November 14, keep your eyes open - beginning at 7am, 10,000 surprises and unique opportunities are planned across the city throughout the day. For hints, follow the tag #PricelessParis on Twitter or check the Facebook page for more details.

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