Thierry is a French name similar to the German Dietrich or the English Derrick, but, in Vancouver, Thierry means chocolates and pastries. French Chef Thierry Busset opened his first cafe in Vancouver on Alberni Street eleven years ago. His Mount Pleasant location opened two years ago, and is my personal go-to in my neighbourhood for a morning coffee and croissant. The space also serves as the production kitchen for what will soon be three Thierry locations. This past week, Chef Thierry sat down with me to chat about how he came to call Vancouver home, his favourite pastry, and the new Ambleside Thierry location set to open this summer.
From London to Vancouver
After working for a number of years in London as a pastry chef at the likes of Marco Pierre White’s Michelin starred restaurants, Chef Thierry was ready for a change of scenery. He had a few places in mind including Australia, Vietnam, and Vancouver. Lucky for us, he visited the West Coast of BC and felt immediately at home. After relocating to Canada, he didn’t open his own place right away. First, he worked locally at CinCin and West as pastry chef. Then, he teamed up with Toptable Group to open his own cafe.
The volume is the biggest difference between making pastry for a cafe versus a fine dining restaurant. In a restaurant, a few dozen macarons might be needed every night, while at Thierry they could sell 1,500 macarons in a day. When I asked if items were adjusted or adapted for the cafe, the answer was no. You can buy the same patisseries and chocolates at Thierry that you would be served in a three star Michelin restaurant. The difference is not in ingredients or process. Yes, the numbers are significantly bigger but otherwise, the quality is the same.
Thierry’s Artistic Instinct
I assumed that Thierry’s career choice was based off of a love for desserts but he told me he actually doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth. When he was younger, he got his hands on a cooking encyclopedia. It was a multi-volume set and the first few volumes covered patisserie. Young Chef Thierry was excited by the images. He saw sugar transformed into flowers, and he realized that with food he could create art. He could sculpt with sugar, craft with caramel, and mold with marzipan. His chocolates are indeed glossy little treasures and his macarons come in a literal edible rainbow.
Given that he does not have a sweet tooth himself, Thierry does not often indulge in his own creations. That said, his favourite dish, besides a coffee soaked tiramisu, is the apple tart. He eats one almost every day. This is the kind of gruelling quality assurance work that you will have to do as a pastry chef, so be warned.
Good Produce Makes Good Patisserie
The apple tart is made with a special apple, the Elstar. Chef Thierry explained to me that this is the perfect apple for a tart. The apples are grown for Thierry by Natty at Hazelmere Organic Farm. I haven’t been writing about food for that long but I have been doing it long enough to know that the best restaurants in town use Hazelmere’s produce. Chef Thierry explained that one of the greatest things about working in Vancouver, over London, is the longer growing season for fruit. The cafe is always changing their menu to reflect seasonal specialties and make the most of what produce is available locally.
Thierry’s Intentionally Tempting Design
Mount Pleasant, follows the same design aesthetic as the original Alberni location. The decorative doors are eye catching. They’re heavy. It feels like you’re entering a luxury hotel or a jewelry store. The pastry display case was designed in, and shipped from, France. The marble counter is long so that every item can be viewed from above, rather than stacked on top of each other. The design allows you to take in everything offered on your way to the register to order. It’s very intentionally tempting.
Sweet and Savoury
Thierry can provide sweet treats to celebrate a special occasion, whether that be a cake or a gift basket. They also sell my favourite croissant in the city. The croissant au jambon is made with Italian ham, Emmental cheese, and béchamel. It is salty and cheesy and perfectly crisp. Thierry also serves sandwiches, as well as a selection of macarons, madeleines, palmier cookies, and loaves. Thierry successfully reproduces the atmosphere of a French cafe. Stop in and grab something to go, or sit and linger over a coffee and pastry, or even enjoy a glass of wine. No matter your craving or mood, there will be a pastry or chocolate for you.