Friday 11 January 2013

French Foodies in Ireland: Armelle from Armelle's Kitchen

Armelle grew up in Harnes, a small town in the North of France. In 2010 she opened her cake shop “Armelle’s Kitchen” on the main street of Kilcullen where she makes sweet treats with her Scottish husband Kenny.

  • What brought you to Ireland?
I moved to Ireland in October 2000 after having spent a year and a half working in the French pavilion of EPCOT Centre in Orlando, Florida. I was young and free and didn’t feel like settling down in France just yet, and thought I would spend a couple of years on the Green Isle … 12 years later I’m still here…
  • Tell me about your foodie occupation?
I have worked in hotels and restaurants all my life and decided to take the plunge of opening my own kitchen and go self employed in January 2010. Things going well, 10 months later Kenny (my now husband :-o) and I opened a cake shop on the main street of Kilcullen Co.Kildare. We are now both working full time (as in 50/60hrs a week each, not 39) and started to enter the retail market 3 months ago. We’re busy, we’re learning and wouldn’t change a thing!  Oh… and we’re working on covering Ireland with French macarons… so far so good.
  • Why did you decide to open a cake shop?
One day I just thought: “If I wanted to order a nice birthday cake, I wouldn’t know where to get it” … That’s how the idea started really. Lots of Irish pastries use fresh cream and I’m not too keen on it, I’m a butter cream kinda girl. Don’t even get me started about the desserts and pastries being sold in the supermarkets … Growing up, my Dad used to make some fantastic cakes for special occasions, and still does; while my Mum makes the more everyday cakes and tartes. I just grabbed the genes and ran with it ;)

So I did some research, had a look at what was around and I started the cake making business from the house. I was determined to make proper homemade treats, where my kitchen would be open so anybody could see what’s happening. I put the website together and started spreading the word as best I could. The feedback was very good and I had regular orders from a local caterer. Incidentally, 9 months later a shop in Kilcullen went for rent, that’s when we decided to take the plunge and really go for it. We re-did the whole interior and fitted a kitchen that is completely open. It happens often that a customer has a look at what I’m doing, what’s in preparation or what’s cooling down. Some people ask questions or look for advice and I’m always happy to answer.

  • Describe a typical day in Armelle’s Kitchen
There’s no “typical” day as such… but we do have a weekly sort of routine. This is all while serving customers, answering inquiries, taking orders, cleaning and filling up the health & safety paperwork, receiving deliveries, chatting with my lovely customers, eating cake, drinking coffee and tweeting…

Monday: shop is closed but we are busy bees…paperwork, shopping for ingredients, catching up with some emails, checking the orders for the week and plan. Also look at previous week’s “to do list” that I didn’t finish and add more stuff on it. Baking in the afternoon to prepare opening on:

Tuesday: up at 5, baking to fill up display fridge and be ready to open at 8.30. Lots more baking and preparing pastry creams and butter creams to have a bit of a head start. Kenny makes some macarons in the other kitchen. He would also get in touch with the shops and cafes we supply to see what stocks are left and plan what quantities to deliver this week.

Wednesday: Preparing the packaging for deliveries and starting to put everything together. More baking…

Thursday: we finish the packing up and do the pastries that need to be done as late as possible, then Kenny faces the Dublin traffic to deliver to the different places and catches up with Managers and Owners. Macarons and almond rochers are being dispatched to Ardkeen Grocer in Waterford too. More baking…

Friday: It usually starts with genoises for the occasion cakes ordered for the weekend. Then I layer them with butter cream and do the decorations as the day goes by. Kenny does more macarons and files the paperwork from the deliveries. More baking…

Saturday: It’s the busiest day of the week.  I start by finishing the decorations on the cakes that have been ordered then prepare some packaging for next week. I don’t bake much in the afternoon because we close Sundays and Mondays, depending how busy it is of course. In the afternoon I usually catch up on emails, plan for the next celebration on the calendar, update the website etc … Kenny does lots of macarons on Saturdays.

Sunday: Sleep!!!

Boring week really…

  • How did you master the art of making macarons?
I did my first try in the house, I had never baked them before. The very first batch I did were chocolate ones, and they came out perfect, I was delighted with myself! What I didn’t know was that it was beginner’s luck … It took me about a week of frustration of making batch after batch to get the result I was looking for, and calling them names too … *if at first you don’t succeed*
  • What was the strangest/ most original cake request?
I haven’t had strange requests as such, surprisingly enough! In the original category, the pyramid of macarons is very successful for weddings and you definitely get the wow factor.
  • What kind of cakes do you sell and which one are the most popular?
Amandine Tartes, Vanilla Tartes, fruit tartlets, choux, ├ęclairs, financiers, mini cakes, afternoon cakes, macarons and whatever goes through my mind in the morning ;-) All very French of course! I also do occasion cakes on order for Birthdays, Christenings, Communions and the all important wedding cakes.
  • What is your favourite French dessert?
Tough question!! Too many … will have to say macarons, or anything that has nuts, pistachios and strawberries involved … I KNOW!! Our strawberry & pistachio wedding cake and Eiffel Tower of macarons (made by my Dad and I).

*All pictures courtesy of Armelle

Where to find Armelle?

Armelle's Kitchen
Main Street Kilcullen Co.Kildare
+35345 480 697

Follow Armelle on Facebook here
Follow Armelle's tweets here