Paris seen by Sadaharu Aoki

The Japanese master cake and pastry chef Sadaharu Aoki, shares his views on the French capital and patisserie.

Sadaharu Aoki

It is the turn of the master pastry and cake maker Sadaharu Aoki to tell us about his love story with the French capital and his profession – part gourmet delight and part work of art.

You are one of the most well-known pastry and cake makers in the capital although you are of Japanese origin. Can you tell us about your arrival in Paris and how you started out ?

S. A.: As an adolescent I was a great fan of motocross and during competitions I liked to prepare meals for my friends. I soon got used to cooking, especially sweet and savoury combinations. So then my aunt encouraged me to take cooking lessons and come to France: ‘If you want to become a pastry and cake maker, you have to go to Paris!’.
In 1991, I arrived in France, not knowing a word of French but determined to take French courses to learn the language. After my arrival, I spent six months without a job doing a tour of the best patisserie products tasting and re-tasting their specialities. I then obtained a traineeship with Lucien Peltier and for seven years I constantly
tried out new experiences and went on training courses. I was then working from 6am to 8pm and at night in a small studio converted into a laboratory. It was at this time that I had the idea of combining French products with other flavours: Japanese ones.

How has Paris been a source of inspiration?

S. A.: Paris and France in general are an inexhaustible source of inspiration, notably through the richness of their regional products, the quality of their fruit, raw materials, etc. I regularly go to Rungis for my produce. I am constantly innovating, trying out new things and I am always inspired by the climate and the seasons. What’s more, I have now lived longer in Paris than in Tokyo and therefore feel as much French as Japanese. From the beginning of my work to today, I feel that the city has not really changed, which has a reassuring aspect.

Your shops are situated on the Left Bank, is that chance are a deliberate choice on your part?

S. A.: A choice, I have for some reason always been fond of Paris’s Left Bank. That goes back to my arrival in Paris as my first accommodation and my first laboratory were on the Left Bank. There is an artistic atmosphere there … a specific identity that lends itself well to creativity.

As with your shop on rue de Vaugirard, are you very inspired by design?

S. A.: Although very sensitive to design, I confess to delegating this discipline to my decorator, the artist Jun Hamamura, who is better than I am in this area. My three shops are in this image.

Could you name some of your favourite restaurants for us?

S. A.: If I had to name but two, I would say the Bellota Bellota, a restaurant, tapas bar/caterer, more famous as a distributor of pata negra Iberian ham in Paris, and Fogón, a restaurant of Spanish specialities run by chef Alberto Herraiz. All the splendour of Spain is portrayed here in the cooking. A real journey of the senses.

Your patisseries are often served in the great couture houses … What is your secret?

S. A.: A love for work is the key to my success and to any great business. My creations are pure … I often add Japanese flavours (Macha, Yuzu) but with careful attention to proportions and presentation. I feel therefore like the soul of an ambassador. Moreover, in 1999, I was nominated as the person responsible for the Paris office of the federation of Japanese pastry and cake makers, which for me was a great honour and a good way of getting known in the guides.

• Restaurant
18 rue Jean Nicot, Paris 7th
Tel +33 (0) 8 99 78 92 12
• Historic counter of the group
27 rue Yves Kermen, Boulogne Billancourt
Tel +33 (0) 1 46 09 00 01

45 quai des Grands Augustins, Paris 6th
Tel +33 (0) 1 53 44 31 33

Boutique Lafayette Gourmet
40 bd Haussmann, Paris 9th

Boutique Port Royal
56 bd du Port Royal, Paris 5th
Tel +33 (0) 1 45 35 36 80

Boutique Ségur
25 rue Pérignon, Paris 15th
Tel +33 (0) 1 43 06 02 71

Boutique Vaugirard
35 rue de Vaugirard, Paris 6th
Tel +33 (0) 1 45 44 48 90