Just a 90-min TGV ride from Paris is the city of Angers, France. A lively medieval town with the river Maine running through it, Angers is also home to Damien Vétault, a very talented pâtissier, a maker of cakes and pastries extraordinaire…
Fabulous French Cakes – you won’t look back in Angers
As you approach Damien’s shop, which opened in October 2013, the first thing you’ll notice is the minimalist vibe. An inconspicuous yet elegant grey sign with his name lets you know you’re in the right place and upon entering, the shop’s stark white walls and contrasting black and grey décor add to the modern, less-is-more feel. Perfect rows of colorful pastries line the glass cases and you can’t help but be drawn to them.
Most days, Damien himself will greet you from behind the counter – although you might not realize it. Damien is young, and his unassuming and friendly demeanor coupled with his superb pastry skills make it easy to see why his shop does so well.
I caught up with Damien to learn more about the man behind the delicious eats whose love for pastry making dates back to his childhood. “I started at an early age cooking pies and cakes with the orchard’s fruits that I would pick up with my family, so I naturally pursued pastry training,” he explained. He kicked off his training in 2004 at the Allard Pastry in Les Ponts-de-Cé, a landmark establishment in the Angers area where he was able to learn the ropes of the job while in a family-oriented environment.
From there, he sought out additional training at several prestigious Parisian patisseries where he focused on high-end pastries and the techniques and standards which enhanced his level of creativity.
Speaking of creativity, there’s no shortage of it in Damien’s masterpieces. He admits that inspiration comes pretty naturally to him and follows the seasons. He’ll get ideas while wandering through the farmers market and while traveling. When asked what his favorite dessert is to make, he told me, “I’ll always lean towards desserts made with fruits, especially the mirabelle plum tart, made with the mirabelle plums from my mom’s garden. It’s actually a dessert that I reinterpreted with a touch of rosemary. It will be on this summer’s menu.” Fruit provides endless opportunities for him.
While pastry making has its perks, it’s a career that takes extreme dedication, drive and passion for the art itself. A typical day for Damien starts early: “Work starts at 6am with fruit shopping according to the season. I then begin production of the pastries with my team so we are ready for the opening of the store at 9:30am, then comes the store setup before the opening.” After a full day in the shop, he preps chocolate and macarons in the kitchen after closing.
If you’re ready to try your hand at pastry making, Damien has a tip for you, “Pastry making is about precision, so the first rule is to follow very carefully the process mentioned in a recipe, as well as the meticulous weighing of the ingredients.” If you’re looking for something easy yet impressive for the at-home pastry chef, Damien says you can’t go wrong with a strawberry tarte. “When it’s strawberry season, a nice tart with gariguette, ciflorette or mara strawberries, take your pick. A just-baked pie shell with a fruity glaze, a soft cream and high-quality strawberries… yummy!”
If you’re looking for a souvenir to take home, treat yourself to a jar of his caramel. My French husband loves the stuff and says that Damien Vetault’s caramel is the best he’s ever tasted. The texture makes it easy to spread and the taste is spot on.
After our interview and carefully eyeing the pastries, I had to know if they tasted as good as they looked, and I can confidently tell you oui! At just over 4 euros each, Damien Vetault’s creations aren’t cheap but they’re worth the price. For a memorable French pastry experience, this is the place to go the next time you’re in Angers. Not to be missed!
Visit Damien Vetault at 1 Place du Lycée, 49100 Angers: www.damienvetault.com
By Diane Wargnier, an American in France who is married to a Frenchman and blogs about her life in France with the help of her beloved dog Dagny at ouiinfrance.com