At least Montrealers have some time to process the news: In six months’ time, Patrice Pâtissier, one of the city’s best pastry shops, will close.
Lauded pastry chef and Patrice Pâtissier owner Patrice Demers broke the news on social media yesterday afternoon, in a statement with partner Marie-Josée Beaudoin, and tells Eater his phone lit up with texts, DMs, and calls after he shared that the shop’s eight-year run was coming to an end. “We were expecting a big reaction, but I have to say we were almost overwhelmed by it yesterday.”
Though the pandemic has presented some challenges — what was once a steady stream of job applications has slowed and the price of butter dramatically rose (and Demers goes through about 50 kilos of it per week) — overall the business is a success, with the recent sale of pastries exceeding that of previous years. That’s not the issue.
When Demers and Beaudoin, two Montreal restaurant industry vets, opened Patrice Pâtissier in Little Burgundy back in 2014, they’d expected their quality of life to improve. But Demers says they’ve since concluded that it isn’t any easier owning and operating a pastry shop than it is a restaurant: “That’s for sure.”
Demers made a splash on the local culinary scene in 2002, when in his twenties he opened Les Chèvres, an ode to local vegetables, in Outremont. After it closed, he went on to work at a number of other well-regarded establishments, including once-upon-a-time Old Montreal home-run Les 400 Coups, where he met sommelier Beaudoin, now his wife. Now, he’s mulling going back to restaurant work. “In a restaurant, on the line, making desserts, that’s where I feel most in my spot. We’re really happy we did this for eight years, but we felt it was time to go back to doing what we really like and that’s working in restaurants,” he says.
One of the things he misses most about the restaurant environment is the structure: the reservation cap, the set number of diners that can be served in a single seating. At the pastry shop, he says customers expect an endless supply of canelé, kouign amann, and seasonal fruit tarts at the ready. “People don’t seem to understand why there are no more pastries when they came on a Saturday and at three o’clock.” (The launch of an online shop were customers can reserve their desserts ahead of time has helped some.)
As a pastry chef, Demers is renowned for his finesse and unfaltering attention to detail. Take his lemon tartlet: a classic French pastry, seemingly straightforward, that’s been on the menu since day one. Demers’s current version entails sanding the base with a microplane, adding an almond praline at the bottom, and crowning it with a white chocolate Chantilly cream. The lemon cream filling is made with yuzu and infused with lime zest, and it gets dusted with dehydrated tarragon at the very end.
But when Demers and Beaudoin opened Patrice Pâtissier they didn’t expect to be selling approximately 4,000 pastries a week — each as meticulously made as that lemon tartlet. “We’re really at full capacity right now. We cannot do more. We don’t have enough space to put the staff. We knew we either needed to go bigger or just close.”
As of right now, Patrice Pâtissier’s last day of business remains undecided, but it’ll be at the end of August, Demers says. After clearing out the shop, he and Beaudoin plan to go to Italy for a little while, “just to completely feel relaxed and have a real break,” he says.
After that, a return to restaurant work, in some form, seems probable, on top of all of Demers’ other projects. Demers, who’s published four cookbooks and once hosted his own television show on Canal Vie, plans to continue teaching, both at ITHQ and at Brooklyn pastry and chocolate school Valrhona. Later this month, he will appear as a judge on Food Network Canada’s upcoming Wall of Chefs spin-off, Wall of Bakers.
“I won’t be opening another pastry shop, but I’m not retiring,” Demers says. “I’m still just as passionate at what I do as before, and that’s kind of why we’re choosing to close right now. We don’t want to lose that passion. We want to stop while we’re still loving it.”