Jean Claude Ferre
Picture sitting at a sidewalk café in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower — café au lait in hand, a charming French man at your side, and of course, a medley of delectable French pastries piled high in front of you. It’s hard to imagine a scene or a life more romantic. Ahh, the vision of whiling away the hours of the day strolling the wide avenues and admiring the art and architecture of the one city in the world that people visit, to fall in love — Paris.
Born and raised in Normandy, France, Ferré says he was making his own birthday cakes by the time he was 12. At the age of 14, he was sent to Paris to attend culinary school and master the art of desserts and chocolate confections. It didn’t take long — the school awarded him first place for his croissants and brioche.
Becoming a chef, says Ferré, was his way of ensuring that he would be able to travel and go abroad later in life. There were hotels all over the world where he could spend his life crafting pastries and other sweet treats. And so he did. His talent as a baker and confectioner first took him to Switzerland for four years to work for the renowned master chocolate-maker Roland Strauss, and then back to Normandy, where he opened his first pastry shop in 1976.
More travel came through consulting contracts that took him to Saudi Arabia, and later to Alaska by way of Japan. Except that he never arrived in Japan as planned — the first in a series of fortunate events that brought Ferré to the Northwest. On his way to Japan, he stopped in Alaska for a job, and never got any further west. It was there that he first expanded his talent for pastries and chocolates to breads. He learned to bake bread from a Texan, in Alaska. Ferré remained in Anchorage, where he opened a wholesale bakery called “Crazy Croissants” until 1991 when he decided to pick up once again and move to Seattle.
His first shop, The French Pastry Place, was located on Mercer Island, but due to a high demand for his confections and his desire for “the perfect location,” in 2003, Ferré opened Belle Pastry.
All the pastries in his shop — and there were dozens, from the most authentic French pastry, an opera (thin layers of true mocha butter cream, chocolate ganache, and dense almond biscuits with a hint of rum), to pain au chocolate and fruit tartlets — are handmade from scratch right in his shop by Ferré and his small kitchen staff. The charming and quaint little shop was filled with glass cases housing row upon row of mouth-watering treats, warm breads and the smell of fine coffee. Little café tables seat locals from the neighborhood relaxing with newspapers and books on lazy afternoons.
The pastries at Belle Pastry were like none other found this side of France. From the tiny kitchen in the back of the shop, the staff turned out about 250 fresh pastries of all kinds, every day. And also the chocolates Ferré handcrafts himself. When asked what he likes to make most, he will tell you it’s a tie between the chocolate candy, Danish and croissants. He even has his own chocolate creations like the mint susie — a decadently creamy white chocolate square with the tiniest hint of mint, and the belle kiss — “like a Hershey Kiss” he says, but bigger and better.
Now Ferre has taking his knowledge to wholesale and is offering his pastries to distributors.
Ferré bakes all of the classics like croissants, éclairs, tiramisu and apple tartlets, plus elegant-looking creations like the pear caramel mousse, made with layers of almond and chocolate biscuit topped with caramel soaked pears in mousse, and lightly brushed with coffee flavor, or the Napoleon, made with alternating layers of flaky pastry dough and crème, and topped with fondant sugar. What makes these pastries so special? As Ferré says, “They are made and produced in the old-fashioned ways that I learned 40 years ago.” Adding to their old-fashioned craftsmanship, his confections are only made with the highest quality ingredients, straight from Europe, where Ferré returns at least twice a year to visit and source ingredients.
Ferré says it “feels like an art to make pastries” and he’s happy to finally be doing it exactly the way he wants.
Article credit 425 Magazine