Midnight in the kitchen

photo by Pedro Ruiz, Le Devoir

Ever wonder who’s behind the desserts you eat? Who makes those fresh croissants every morning? Are they frozen or is someone up baking goodies at the crack of dawn? It all depends on where you buy your viennoiseries. At Les Co’pains d’Abord there are made fresh every day, or rather every night, all night.

Biting into a fresh abricotine one morning made me wonder who made these? Standing in line waiting to pay, watching fresh croissants and chocolatines being carefully stacked in the window, made me think of how long desserts and viennoiseries take to make.

After eating all these desserts, I started wondering about the bakers and the pastry chef who make them.

This summer, I caught up with pastry chef Matthieu Virloget from Les Co’Pains d’Abord. Here’s something I wrote up:

The alarm clocks rings at 11 p.m. Supper is at breakfast time. When others are getting ready for bed, pastry chefs are starting their day. Your fresh croissant for breakfast means someone’s been up all night baking.

It’s quiet at night, very different from during the day. No one knows we’re back here baking bread, said Matthieu Virloget, a pastry chef at Les Co’pains d’Abord on Masson St.

Two chefs work the night-shift and man the ovens. With Frédéric Theraud, they mix, they knead, they roll the dough. Layers and layers, folded and rolled, pounds of melted butter in, over and over again.  Two thousand croissants a night is a lot of work and it all has to be ready for when the delivery trucks arrive at 6 a.m.

Then there’s a big rush. Before that, it’s all calm at night and we can work in peace.

Virloget enjoys the freedom of the night shift. No bosses watching over his shoulder, no clients fussing about delivery, it’s a very peaceful time. Theraud however is ready for a change. After 10 years of working graveyard hours, he wants a normal life. Simply put : It’s hard to maintain a relationship.

Virloget’s shifts are variable. Sometimes he starts at 3 a.m., other times at 1 a.m. or at 5. It all depends on the orders. They supply the croissants for the other Les Co’pains d’Abord shops as well as to some restaurants. The breakfast pastries, croissants, chocolatines, abricotines, and almond croissants need to be ready to go by 6 a.m. After that, the rush is on for fancier pastries, shortcakes, tartelettes and cakes.

The hardest part for Virloget is waking up at one in the morning in the winter.

I literally need to throw myself out of bed and into the shower. Not easy when you know that “outside, il fait un froid de canard.”

And when he arrives at work, until the ovens are fired up, it seems just as cold.

Virloget doesn’t really think about health problems or constantly feeling tired.

Isn’t everyone ? he laughs.

For now, he enjoys being awake while the city sleeps.

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Categories: Dessert for supper

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