INDIE INTERVIEWS: ANNABEL’S PATISSERIE
Natasha Molloy interviews Annabel Latham – Founder of Annabel’s Patisserie, a micro-patisserie specialising in artisan chocolates based in Mollington, Oxfordshire. Enjoy learning about the business of setting up and running a patisserie, Annabel’s journey to get there and what’s in store for the future of Annabel’s Patisserie. It’s quite possible you’re going to be craving chocolate by the end of this read..!
Catch Annabel at the Indie Oxford Christmas Market on the 26th November.
Tell us about your journey, what was it that sent you in the direction of patisserie?
Baking became my passion in my early teens, I was struggling in school and feeling directionless. I began experimenting, making macarons, cakes, truffles, etc. It became an obsession, and I had a lightbulb moment at 18 years old when I discovered “pastry chef’ was an actual career path (not one that had ever been mentioned in school!). I was washing dishes in local restaurant and enjoyed the buzz of a kitchen, that’s when I decided that university wouldn’t be my chosen path, and I went to Le Cordon Bleu instead.
It’s fantastic that you achieved your Grande Diplòme de Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu, how did you find doing it?
Le Cordon Bleu was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I personally feel that, at 18 (a grumpy teenager), I didn’t make the most of it. I was taught some incredible skills by some of the world’s best pastry chefs, but it did not teach me about the gritty reality of working in a kitchen. When I headed into my first kitchen at 19, I was in for a shock – my Le Cordon Bleu skills became irrelevant, for the most part. That’s when I had to learn a completely new skill – the art of perseverance!
What is it about patisserie that you love?
It’s art AND food – what’s not to love?! There are too many things to list – but I’ve always been drawn to anything colourful. I love being able to reflect the colours you can find in nature, in the food. I love the creative freedom, and drawing inspiration from everything around me, whether it’s the fruits of the season, or local businesses producing interesting alcohols, coffees, etc, which I can incorporate.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of setting up and running this business?
Good ol’ work-life balance! I set up the business in a “seize the day!” moment, thinking life is short and I didn’t to spend every waking hour in a kitchen with no natural light. What I later learnt, is that to only be thinking of the business in my waking hours, would be a luxury! If I’m not physically working, I’m brainstorming (consciously or otherwise), if I’m asleep – I’m dreaming about work! What would your advice be to someone wanting to learn pastry cooking?Nail the basics! This applies to all areas of cooking. Be patient, and understand that nailing the skills takes time and LOTS of repetition, it will only work if you enjoy the process, so embrace it.
Are you involved with any other Oxford indies?
Yes! I got to know Sasha from Lords Fragrance House through our businesses, we’ve been collaborating on Christmas and Valentine’s Day – I provide the chocolates, and she produces beautiful Hampers with a selection of items from small, local businesses. I also frequent Missing Bean coffee roasters in Banbury, and have produced one of my best-selling flavours (Caramel Macchiato) using their “Elevenses” coffee bean. We will also be looking to collaborate over Christmas.
What’s something you’d like to make sure people know about your business?
It is not, and will never be, a toxic work environment. I am extremely passionate about ensuring that I create a culture that flies in the face of the majority of top restaurants. I want to encourage good pay, fair working hours, no fear around taking breaks or sick days. Health – mental and physical, is important to me, and I don’t think we should live in a world where our work is damaging it.
What are your hopes for the future?
I have very humble ambitions! I LOVE my work, and I’m absolutely not one of those chefs that’s dying to get out the kitchen and into the office. Therefore, I purely want to be in a position where my business is paying the bills, maybe with the help of 2 or 3 people. It’s grown exponentially each year and I’m on my way to reaching that goal, so perhaps ask me again in 3 or 4 years…