Maxime Renard, Pastry Chef
A day in the life
Maxime returned to Hélène Darroze at The Connaught in 2016, having first started here six years earlier. In between, he spent four years working for Alain Ducasse at his three-Michelin-star restaurant, Le Louis XV, in Monte Carlo, and he also worked at Le Guanahani in St Barths. It was a summer spent at Hélène Darroze’s seasonal pop-up restaurant at Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian that persuaded him to come back into the fold.
What were your earliest influences?
I grew up in Paris. My grandmother was a good cook (isn’t every grandmother?) but I don’t really know where my vocation came from to be a pastry chef. I just remember telling my parents that that was what I wanted to be. I went to the Ferrandi professional school in Paris – it was a really good four-year course, where you spent two weeks at school and two working as an apprentice, so you could learn some practicalities on the job. I also worked in pâtisseries in Paris – one of which, Des Gâteaux et du Pain, was run by an influential chef called Claire Damon. This taught me to be very focused. I was also inspired by the fact that Camille Lesecq became head pastry chef at Le Meurice at just 23 years old – the youngest person ever to do that.
What’s your position at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught?
Overall, Kirk Whittle is the head pastry chef overseeing Hélène’s three restaurants (including the seasonal one in San Sebastian) and all the events we do. But day-to-day, I am in charge of the pastry kitchen in the London restaurant, with a total of nine chefs.
Describe your day.
I come in between 8.30 and 9am and, having greeted everyone, I check the order to make sure we have received everything. I set up in the kitchen with my chef de partie – we work closely together. Everything is created to order, à la minute, but we’re ready with a choice of two desserts for lunch and four for the dinner menu; and then there are two desserts on the tasting menu – a fruit-based one and a chocolate-based one. We also do breadmaking, and we make canelés, chocolate bonbons and petit fours to have with coffee, and an ice cream – lots of small things in addition to the main dishes.
Lunch can go on until about 4pm, so I’ll have a break then and be back by 5.30pm in time to set up for the dinner service. I finish sometime between 11.30pm and 1am.
Do you create new desserts for the menu?
Yes – working with Kirk. I will suggest ideas and he’ll make some changes, and we find solutions together. One of the best bits of my job is the experimenting, testing and developing, sharing ideas with different people. Sometimes I work on creating new dishes between midnight and 2am – that’s when I have time to do it! I also have contact with Hélène, who is always generous in sharing her knowledge and really cares about her people.
What are the qualities you need to succeed in your job?
In this job I’ve learnt that there is no perfect day. Every day there are 100 small problems to surmount. I’ve got better at finding solutions – and I have to, now that I’m a manager. You come up with solutions so that the guests, the hotel and the restaurant would never know there was a problem in the first place. You also need to be human, to understand everybody, to have patience, not be lazy, not be big-headed, to stay grounded. You mustn’t ever imagine you are some kind of star. At the end of the day it’s about working with my team, being a confidant to them and learning from experience.
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