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Q&A: David Holder

The chairman of Ladurée, in Hong Kong to launch a local branch of the Parisian patisserie, talks to Vanessa Yung about the family business and how he keeps the brand's iconic macaron fresh

 

Did you always want to join the family business? "I was born into it. I've seen my father work in the business forever. Even when I was a teenager I was dreaming of becoming a patissiere or confectioner. When we bought Ladurée in 1993 I said to my family that this is going to be my baby. At the time it was only one shop, which had been open for 150 years. We've expanded, and now we're opening in Hong Kong."

What is your first memory of pastries? "I was very small. In France, especially in the pastries business, most of the time if you have a shop, production is in the basement and your apartment is on the first floor. My grandmother was living on the first floor. When I was a child and there was no school, I would stay with my cousins and grandmother and we would go into the pastry [kitchen] in the morning to eat cakes. It is the best childhood memory I have."

How did you prepare to join the industry? "I had years of training in baking and pastries from the age of 14. I went to university in Paris and took a bachelor of finance degree, then spent two years as a pastry cook. Those two years were hell. University was easy. [In pastry] you work 17 or 20 hours a day. Forget about friends, girlfriends or parties - you just work. But 20 years on, I'm really proud of that. Thanks to that period, I understand the business not as a businessman, but as a pastry man. I learned perfection - attention to detail. Every day you start from zero and have to end with great products."

How do tastes differ around the world? "It's very surprising. When you travel a lot, like I do - I travel every week - you find the customers want the same the world over. That said, some people don't know what a macaron is because they never had the chance to come to Ladurée in Paris or taste the product."

Are you worried your macarons are a fad? "No. I manage Ladurée more like a fashion brand, which means we have new creations every season. Of course I would be worried if it is like it was 20 years ago. But we make new macarons and new packaging every season. Having our macarons and pastries in [the television series] Gossip Girl and [the film] Marie Antoinette help the brand become more of an institution. Japanese girls who saw the movie said they came to Ladurée and felt like Marie Antoinette at Versailles. The macaron [used to be] something that existed only in Paris. Now, I see them all over the world. They have become an institution, like the croissant and mille-feuille."

 

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