- Andrea Juarez
Find the taste of France in Calgary
Éclair de Lune, the French bakery and café, opened its doors for the first time in May of 2008, serving the public a variety of flavours and textures inspired by French pastries.
Close to its 10th year anniversary, the owner of Éclair de Lune and pastry, chef Philippe Poncet, feels pride in what he has accomplished throughout the years. But how did it all start?
Ever since Poncet was a child, he used to make éclairs (a French oblong pastry made with choux dough filled with a cream and topped with icing) and developed a joy for baking.
As he grew older and it was time to choose a career, despite his joy for baking, he chose to take engineering.
“I thought I would always have to cook. For me, for my kids or friends,” said Poncet.
Poncet and his wife, Francys Alvarez, always had dreamed about opening their own business.
“You always think about it but you never do it because you already have a job.”
After years having worked on a master’s degree and a Ph.D., Poncet liked the idea of having his own business, so he decided to start it. Alvarez discovered the Self-Employment program, in which you register and complete all the steps to end your business plan.
Following a business plan was very time-consuming, so he decided to quit his full-time job and focus on his plan instead.
Before finishing the program, Poncet travelled to France to polish his baking skills in a French bakery owned by a family friend. Poncet shadowed the bakery owner religiously.
“We had to be in the store at 3 a.m. and we worked non-stop until 1 p.m.”
Poncet said he would grab a sandwich from the store on their way home to take a quick nap and go back to work until 8 p.m.
“It was hard but it taught me a lot,” he says.
During that visit, it was Poncet’s first time working in a commercial kitchen. In France, they're called laboratories.
“I did a little bit of everything: cream paste, sandwiches, and fruit rolls.”
After returning to Calgary, he finished the Self-Employment program and opened Éclair de Lune in May 2008.
“When I started, I only had 1/3 of what I have now. I can’t believe how crazy this decision was, but it worked.”
Poncet says he only had four full-time employees, which surprisingly, all were engineers.
During its first days, Éclair de Lune was very popular among Venezuelans because Poncet made popular Venezuelan treats like cachitos (which are similar croissants but are filled with ham and cheese), brazo gitano (swiss rolls), and golfeados (a cheesy, cinnamon, and sugar version of the classic American cinnamon roll) and cream puff cakes.
“They (Venezuelans) wouldn’t get these desserts anywhere else, this bakery was European, and there are many Portuguese bakeries in Venezuela.”
Éclair de Lune also participated in the Farmer’s Market celebration, Sundown Chowdown with their delightful treat: Croquembouche, a French dessert that consists of choux pastry balls piled into a cone and bound with threads of caramel, in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.
“We would always win the Best Dessert category. After the announcement, I would give out the cream puffs.”
The bakery got its name from Poncet's daughter, who, at approximately eight years old, used to say Éclair de Lune instead of Eau Claire de La Lune, the popular French song among children.
Plans for the future
In the future, Poncet would like to open a supermarket store where people can grab a basket and buy not only bread but charcuterie, cheese, and frozen products.
“If it’s fairly frozen, you put it on the oven and that’s it.”
He says he would like to grow the pastry business since people many times opt to buy low-quality cakes in popular supermarkets.
“They only use biscuit and cream.”
Poncett says Éclair de Lune’s cake ingredients are biscuit, syrup, two different kinds of cream, fruit, and plus other ingredients depending on the decoration.
“We have more levels of flavour-- crunchy and soft.
“People can also ask for the flavours they want and we can make them.”
One of Éclairs featured products is the crouddin (croissant + buddin), only
available on Saturdays.
The crouddin is the replacement of bread pudding with croissant, and was inspired by the combinations that already exist like the crounut, a donut in the croissant bread, and the cruffin, which is made by proving and baking the laminated dough in a muffin mold.
The Ferrero Rocher Cake or Croquant Cake is also among the most popular products.
Poncet recommends that Calgarians try the lemon tart, which was featured on Avenue Magazine’s 25 Best things to eat in Calgary in March of 2014.
He adds that it is necessary for people to be brave enough to experiment and try different sweet flavours with diverse textures, and eperiment beyond ice cream and doughnuts.
“People aren’t in touch with so many varieties of flavour.
Life is short, eat dessert first.”