Indie Oxford Interview: Gatineau
Today on the blog we chat to Debora from Gatineau in Summertown, and find out how the business started, why they work with other Oxford independents, and the importance of community. >>
Tell me about Gatineau, and how it started.
Herve Gatineau, the owner and head pastry chef started the business in 2007. He left his job at Maison Blanc when the opportunity here in Oxford came up. There used to be another patisserie where we are today and they were selling it, so Herve took the opportunity to start his first solo venture.
Tell us about your role and how the business has developed over the last couple of years?
My role here at Gatineau has developed a lot over the last two years. I started as Assistant Manager working in the shop and started to develop their marketing and social media at the same time. After 5 months the manager decided to go and open his own business so I took over from him as manager, and from then on I started to take more and more responsibilities which led me to the position I am today as Business Development & Marketing Manager. During these two years we have grown our wholesale business quite dramatically, to the point that we had to move part of our kitchen to a bigger unit in order to produce more. Our shop sales have also increased, especially in the weddings & events department. Last year alone we made over 10 croquembouche and had a lot of orders for large cakes or large orders of individual cakes for weddings. A lot of them in beautiful college locations in Oxford and a few outside of Oxford, as far as 2 hours drive from here! We even had two croquembouche orders for same day which is something we have never done before. We also did a front shop refurbishment bringing more space for customers to sit, better displays for our bread and viennoiserie, and a new coffee machine and training from The Missing Bean. We have actually done a lot in these past two years when I think about it!
What did you do before you worked for Gatineau?
I did a bit of everything really. I started my professional life as an English teacher back in Brazil when I was only 17. Here in Oxford I worked as a Projects Coordinator for a language company and the last job before Gatineau was at d’Overbroeck’s College as their International Marketing Coordinator recruiting students from all different countries around the world. It was a great job but after 4 years I wanted to go into something closer to my heart – food and especially bakery. All my family back in Brazil are bakers!
What is the business best known for?
For its “Frenchness”. All the flour, butter, cream and chocolates that we use in our products are French. Most of our chefs are French. Some of our shop staff is French and the owner, Herve Gatineau, is of course French. We keep it all very authentically French as much as we can. And of course, we are truly artisanal, independent and work with only high quality ingredients to make the best cakes, breads and viennoiserie around town.
You can see the pastry chefs at work when you come to the shop. And also see Herve still working as well. Herve is very much involved in the daily run of the business and makes sure that we keep our standards high.
How important is the local community to your business?
Very important. Our business has initially grown (and continues to do so) pretty much by word of mouth. We have many returning customers. A lot of the customers come every day, and so we have developed a good relationship with them. We know already what they want and how they want it – single shot latte with semi-skimmed milk, spinach quiche, 1 croissant and 1 pain au chocolat, 1 baguette, 5 campaillous (yes some people come to buy 5 in one go!) – and they are always happy to stay and chat with us a bit. It makes working here all the more worth the while.
Finally, what are your favourite independent businesses in Oxford?
Oh my, so many! I love the new café Ratio, it’s stunning and they have amazing filter coffee. I love the food at The Handle Bar, especially the avocado toast. Branca, now even bigger and better, is a great place to chill out and they have a goat’s cheese cake to die for. And then so many others… where there’s food, I am there. I try to always visit a new place but I have to say, working at Gatineau made me quite selective when going to other bakeries for example… no other place, even in London, serves cakes and croissants like we do!