Pierre Hermé’s taste of home

Christ­mas at his par­ents’ home in Al­sace, with the aroma of tra­di­tional bis­cuits baking, is

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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

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