Pierre Hermé’s taste of home
Christmas at his parents’ home in Alsace, with the aroma of traditional biscuits baking, is
oming from a family of baker-patissiers, I grew up with the smell of baking bread. We lived in a working-class part of Colmar in Alsace, where there were lots of textile factories and market gardens.
Our house was above my parents’ bakery and workshop, at number 11 avenue d’Alsace. It was a long building from the 1940s or 1950s, with everything arranged in a row: the bakery, the oven, the table for shaping the bread, the kneading machine, the washing-up area and, at
Cthe back, the pastry station with big machines for mixing and grinding. It felt a lot like a lab. In front of the building was a courtyard where I spent most of my time playing. I was an only child, and my parents worked all the time, my father in his workshop, my mother in the shop. I’d have liked to have had someone to play with. But I also liked working. The only way I could spend time with my father was to go to the workshop – that is probably why I knew I wanted to be a patissier from the age of nine.
I came to Paris when I was 14, and worked as an apprentice under the caterer and patissier Gaston Lenôtre. I remember one day tasting his chestnut and pear ice-cream and thinking that I had absolutely no idea chestnuts or pears could taste like that.
I loved my father’s baba au rhum, which he made for special occasions, with whipped cream and fruit. It wasn’t really a kids’ dish, but I was always allowed to have some. The spongy texture of the cake, with the cream … what a dream. It was – is – heaven. I also loved his tartes aux