It’s two in the morning in Creswick. But you could be forgiven for thinking you are in The Loire Valley.
That’s because Paul Williams is baking. It’s a ritual he repeats most nights. So that come sunrise he can open his patisserie and boulangerie to the region’s locals and visitors.
After having worked as a chef de partie of patisserie at the Hyatt in Canberra, Paul found himself lured overseas. Then, after meeting Marie in Canada, travelled with her to provincial France.
“Marie’s family are farmers in Saint Philbert de Bouaine which is known for fine Muscat, brioche and butter,” Paul told us. In fact, this Francophile couple would probably still be there, living off the land, if Paul’s Visa had not expired.
Thankfully for us, they chose to return to Australia and eventually, after visiting his sister, fell in love with the Ballarat region.
“We make a Millefeuille de Vanilla Crème Pâtissière but our customers call it a vanilla slice” – Paul Williams, Le Péché Gourmand
Today, the couple runs Le Péché Gourmand which, Marie explained, translates very loosely to mean ‘The Sin of Gluttony’. Not that either of these artisans would be guilty of that. Given their clientele’s appetites for all things flakey, rich and unapologetically calorie-laden, Paul and Marie hardly stop long enough to sip their coffee. Instead it’s often a 12-hour day, leaving at 4pm to return and start work in the early hours next morning.
In readiness for the new business day, plenty of elbow grease has gone into kneading dough, repeatedly dusting workbenches with flour and adding those finishes touches. Then it’s over to the ovens to do their magic and slowly the cafe is filled with mouth-watering aromas.
Their labour of love has produced freshly baked baguettes, croissants, croquembouche, macarons, opera gateau, escargot pastry, tart au citron and their ‘pièce de rèsistance’, renowned throughout these parts.
“We make a Millefeuille de Vanilla Crème Pâtissière but our customers call it a vanilla slice,” Paul added. “I only make 15 each morning”. But he admits he could sell them all day, every day. They are that popular.
Having been raised in The Loire Valley, Marie is used to the very best dairy produce and refuses to cut corners. So they import Lescure Butter from France and go through 40 to 50 kilograms a week. But you only need to taste one croissant to appreciate why this unsalted butter is in demand the world over.
Le Péché Gourmand serves French delights from a charming historic building. In the colder months, couples favour the love seats by the roaring open fire. But dining under The Elm outside is just as appealing on sunny winter days or during the warmer seasons.
At 69a Albert Street, Creswick and open Tuesday to Saturday 7am-4pm, be sure to treat yourself whenever you’re in the area. With its delicious displays of crisp pastries, rustic furniture, and Marie’s French accent ringing in the background, it’s a ‘joie de vivre’ experience.