The Great British Bake Off may be a distant memory but the showstopper is alive, well and available in Canary Wharf. That’s thanks to the entrepreneurs behind L’Orchidée – a high-end patisserie and winner in the Innovation category at The Wharf Innovation In Business Awards 2016.
With a list of achievements that includes four years supplying Fortnum And Mason, outlets in London and Oxfordshire, and custom shared with French fashion houses Chanel and Luis Vuitton, it may surprise some to know the companywas trading out of a market stall in Brick Lane six years ago.
But the story of London’s most innovative baking partnership didn’t start in east London, it began in the West End.
Chef Daniel Garcia and Elias Dayub, both from Venezuela, met while working at the Firmdale-owned Knightsbridge Hotel. It was here they discovered a shared passion for fine desserts and, more importantly, the conviction to turn their passion into a profession.
Trips to high end food retailers including Fortnum And Masons, Harrods and Selfridges followed, as the pair sought to experience the finest sweets in the capital.
And while what they found in these luxury stores displayed demand for such products, specifically the delicious macarons they sought to create, they saw nothing in the bakeries to set London ablaze.
Formulation began on signature flavours such as Ferrero Rocher and Red Velvet, relegating the Parisien perennials chocolate, strawberry and pistachio to commoner status.
Before long, L’Orchidée took its product onto the streets with a market stall in Brick Lane, then west to the King’s Road and beyond into the plaza at Covent Garden.
A fortuitous meeting with a Fortnum And Mason representative followed while attending London’s Speciality And Fine Food Fair the following summer and Elias and Daniel found themselves supplying the venerable Royal favourite for four years.
At the same fair they met the food and beverage leasing manager of the Westfield Stratford City shopping complex, an encounter that led to the company’s first retail outlet.
“It was completely by chance,” says Elias. “We couldn’t even dream of paying for a store. Daniel was working in the kitchen and I was working as a concierge – we would have needed to save for an eternity.
“But through Westfield we had a way of reaching new customers. For me and Daniel, opening our first store there in September 2011 is when the business started.”
Further luck followed the graft, and a new space opened at Westfield Shepherds Bush in April 2013 among the likes of Luis Vuitton and Chanel fashion brands.
A fine line of macarons and cakes, washed down with Champagne and fine coffee proved a tempting offer and, before long, the pair found themselves balancing their earnings against the cost of opening premises elsewhere.
Canary Wharf was to become the location for L’Orchidée’s third outlet – opened in Canada Place in August 2015. A shop in Bicester village in Oxfordshire soon followed.
“We didn’t want to be a Patisserie Valerie,” says Elias. “We wanted to retain our boutique patisserie identity.
“Bicester is full of the right clientele, many Middle Eastern families with high levels of disposable income, as well as wealthy Chinese and of course British customers.
“There are no cinemas or restaurants, just high-end brands. You go there to shop for Dior and Ralph Lauren and we’re talking about serial shoppers here. In Bicester people don’t carry one bag, they carry many.”
While expansion has been the story, Elias says that’s a legacy of Innovation that remains core to the success of the company.
The company’s Venezuela-inspired chocolate and tonka bean macaron, for example, was singled out for a Great Taste Award, awarded by the Guild of Fine Food.
And, while not quite following in the footsteps of the now ubiquitous South American export quinoa, Elias pitches tonka beans as a sensation as yet undiscovered in Europe.
“We throw the tonka bean away in Venezuela because we don’t know what to do with it,” he says.
“Over here it is sold for £200 a kilo. It’s incredible for chocolate because it makes it more smoky, it takes it to the next level. Today I tell my mother to fill her luggage with it.”
But while Elias concedes the company’s prices mean it will primarily appeal to those with a little more disposable income than most, the nature of an occasional product is that they should be a rare treat.
L’Orchidée’s birthday cakes go for as much as £450, but if the growth of its client base is anything to go by, then they are worth what they cost.
“We always spend a little bit more on things we like,” says Elias. “If I’m going to have a coffee with friends, I’m going to go to the one where I know the coffee is great.”
And for those simply looking for a sweet treat to accompany their coffee, the macarons on which the company made its name are much more affordable.
Even if some of beans that can be found in their delicious pastry might otherwise be lining the streets back in Venezuela.
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