Three sweet decades on the Main Line for a French pastry chef
"Here on the Main Line people are really -- how you would say? -- they don't want to experiment too too much."
Fifty years ago, Patrick Gauthron first stepped into a pastry kitchen as he began an apprenticeship in Beaune, the capital of Burgundy. Seeking work, he ventured outside his hometown. He wanted to go to America. A friend put him in touch with Georges Perrier. Two air-mail letters later, he was hired as the first pastry chef at Le Bec-Fin. Thirty years ago, he opened Aux Petits Delices -- "the small delights" -- in a storefront on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne.
Gauthron runs the shop with his wife, Nina.
Wait. You began working in pastries 50 years ago?
Was your family in the business?
No, I baked with my mother. I'm from the farmland. Grew up in the farms, so I had great ingredients to eat every day and Sunday a big meal, and I was always interested to make dessert with my mother. I was not going to stay on the farm, so I was debating what I was going to do and said, "Well, I'll go to school for pastries." I graduated in 1968.
Tell me how you came to the U.S.
How has the public's taste in pastry evolved since 1987?
People don't like you to go outside the box?
When did you meet your wife?
Does Blake want to get into the business?
I don't know, maybe management, maybe hotel manager or something. He's a little interested in baking, but he's only 16. He works in here, and he has a job at 333 Belrose, too. He works in the kitchen. He might be interested in doing this as a career, but we don't know. He's too young.
But you were 13½ and you were baking.
Well, that was an apprentice. That was amazing. That was the last year from my generation. I dropped out of high school to go to apprenticeship. In 1968, they changed that. Before, they didn't want the kids to have more education. But I went to pastry school, and going on the road, you know you learn so much.
Why did you leave Le Bec-Fin?
I wanted to move on to be on my own. I had been doing freelancing. I liked it. I left to look around and do a business plan, and while freelancing you have a chance to get lots of new recipes.
What made you then take a storefront?
I got lucky, because this store was open for one year, and a good friend of mine who lives in Wayne told me it was up for grabs. I wanted to go back to the pastry side of the business. I wanted to be recognized for what I do.