Starting a business midst a pandemic and economic gloom. Crazy or brave? For sisters Chantal le Roux and Monica D’Maye it was a bit of both. And today, these baking entrepreneurs are smiling from ear to ear.
Lockdown saw many of us spend much more time in the kitchen than before … whipping up banana bread, fudge, scones and treat galore. So no surprise that that’s exactly what Chantal le Roux and Monica D’Maye did too. They baked to their hearts’ delight. So much so that family and friends kept on saying that they should turn this hobby into a business. And the seed was planted.
‘One of our cousins, who knows how much we love baking, showed me an Instagram page that was trending in Australia – one with delicious looking treats,’ says Chantal.
‘There were the most gorgeous gift boxes filled with baking treats, then cakesicles, smash hearts and geode art. She thought it was worth it for us to try our hand at. That was just the encouragement we needed. I asked Monica if she would like to join me in this venture. Of course, she said yes! And the excitement, planning and dreaming started in July.
‘There was some worried looks, frowns and comments from suppliers asking us if we are really sure about this new venture. The world is going through a pandemic, businesses were closing, so it may not be the best time to start a business in baking. Right? Wrong. We couldn’t think of a better time.’
The two sisters spent weeks researching, watching an enormous amount of Youtube videos to get ideas for their own look and feel. They ordered moulds from the UK and it was cooking game on.
‘There was some organised chaos … my home was constantly filled with baked treats that needed to be photographed for our website and social media. But when we started posting our creations, the response was overwhelming. Apart from our family and friends, who always supported us, we now had people interested and ordering.’
The name of their business was inspired by their love for Europe, especially France. They always had a dream to open a little coffee shop and bakery on a sidewalk in Paris. ‘We wanted something different and French. So, we made a shortlist and La Pâtisserie Fantastique won.’
When you see the gorgeous treats these two sisters create you’d be surprised to hear they have no formal training. They did use to help their mother, who used to make wedding or special occasion cakes, but that’s it! Both stay-at-home moms for the past year, Chantal originally comes from a corporate background and still owns a carpet and upholstery cleaning company, Monica was a nursery school teacher and, for a while, a flight attendant.
Of starting up a business, Monica says ‘Patience and perseverance are two key elements you need. ‘We learn something every single day, always trying new things and recipes. There is no room for failure, we put in everything we have and redo it if necessary until it is perfect. Chantal once made six batches of macarons in one day just to get five perfect macarons. People tend to think baking is easy, it most definitely is not. It is a science. For instance, humidity plays a huge role … it can destroy a whole batch of macarons. Something we’ve learned the hard way.
‘You get your off days which, believe it or not, can influence your baking. Fortunately, when one has a ‘bad day, the other one can step in. Where Chantal lacks, I can make up for it and vice versa.’
Working so close together every day, sure some sibling squabbling might happen? ‘We just have a good go at each other, cry and then make up. We know and respect each other’s boundaries. And if all else fails, we just open a bottle of bubbly!’
The secret to their success? ‘With all the doom and gloom in the world, we just want to give people something bright and sweet. People’s outlook on life changed … they’re desperately looking for happy moments, colourful moments and moments of sweet delights to forget about reality for a little while. So that is exactly why we aim to create beautifully edible items that look like art but tastes amazing.’
Short & sweet
What do you specialise in?
Gift boxes, cakes, cakesicles, macarons, cupcakes, craft brownies, doughnuts and fudge.
If you can do any job, what would it be?
C: A professional ballerina or a travel blogger.
M: Would love to go into forensic psychology.
A sweet treat that sums you up perfectly?
C: Chocolate lava cake – I appear hard on the outside, but I’m soft and squishy on the inside.
M: A macaron – they are a complete pain to make, but once you get the knack of it, it is pretty simple. I seem very complicated and full of nonsense, but I’m actually pretty simple and easy-going.
Kitchen equipment you use the most?
C: My bright red mixer.
M: My blender – I love to make smoothies.
What do you say to your kids that your mother used to say to you?
C: When my kids ask me why? I sometimes reply, BECAUSE I SAID SO.
M: The phrase, ‘these kids …’ comes to mind.
Most important lesson learned from your mother?
C: Push through the hard times, you are always stronger than you think.
M: Never give up, and you get what you give. So be nice, always!
Chantal’s luxurious raspberry liqueur ganache recipe:
You’ll need: 1 cup good quality white chocolate chips; 1/2 cup Amarula raspberry and white chocolate cream liqueur
How to: Pour Amarula into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Add white chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Cool ganache, stirring occasionally until it’s thick enough to scoop with a spoon.
*Use this as a filling centre in cupcakes, or as a frosting for cakes.
Monica’s rich and creamy Fettuccine Alfredo recipe:
You’ll need: 500g cooked pasta of your choice; 250ml cream; 150ml Parmesan cheese; 20ml butter; 100g sliced mushrooms; 100g sliced ham; 1 clove fresh garlic, crushed; salt and pinch of pepper to taste
How to: Fry mushrooms, garlic and ham till they are brown. Set aside. Melt butter, and add cream, add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. When the sauce is thick and creamy add the ham and mushrooms. Serve over tagliatelle pasta.
WIN! Want to spoil mom this Mother’s Day with a smash heart filled with goodies like Lindt chocolate balls, geode truffle hearts and marshmallows (the rest remains a secret)? Then enter our competition by liking GetItJoburgWest on Facebook and tag your mom or a mother figure in the comments section. Hurry, entries close May 21.