The Pitch: Chic de Partie, cake couturier

Published on 22 April 2021

Photo: Chic de Partie's boozy brioche

The inside word on a unique cake business from Dinner by Heston alumnus Aidan Robinson.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Aidan. 
I’m originally from Manchester, aged 26 and have been a pastry chef for 11 years (yes, I started when I was 15). I’ve worked in some incredible kitchens over the years, including Michelin-started restaurants such as Gidleigh Park and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. I moved to Melbourne in 2017 on a sponsorship visa through Dinner by Heston. Which unfortunately went into liquidation on Valentine’s Day in 2020, and, having only a week’s notice, left me unable to find work easily because of the restrictions on my visa.

I didn’t think things could get worse, then the pandemic hit and finding work became impossible. With no job, no visa, no money, if it hadn’t been for the support from my partner, Breeze, moving back home would’ve been my only option. So our first lockdown wasn’t easy, especially for me, not knowing when I’d get paid next, or when I’d receive a letter terminating my visa. A few weeks into lockdown, I decided to join my building’s WhatsApp group. I introduced myself as a pastry chef, offering to make cakes as a way of picking up some income. As a result I received a lot of orders from my kind neighbours, as well as some private-chef work for two very supportive people named Nadia Taylor and Harold Mitchell, the entrepreneur and philanthropist.

It felt great to be creative and to be working again, so I decided to take it more seriously. Breeze and I applied for a de facto visa, and things were really starting to go well. We were approved after only a few months, which felt like a miracle. Once the business really took off, I turned our second bedroom in to a professional commercial prep kitchen, got a home-based food licence, and Chic de Partie was born.

The name Chic de Partie comes from a nickname that came in turn from my obsession with fashion and my long history working as a chef de partie in London kitchens.

Give us the elevator pitch, what's Chic de Partie all about?
I’d put it like this: “Melbourne cake couturier and Michelin-trained pastry chef turns your cake dreams into a reality”.

What about this project excites you?
The chance to take my experiences in high-end restaurants and transform them into cakes and pastries that can be enjoyed at home. The tipsy cake from Dinner by Heston, for example, was the inspiration for a heat-at-home dessert I’ve made for my customers that I call “boozy brioche”.

Boozy brioche is like a tipsy cake on steroids: I roll balls of brioche in sugar and butter to create a beautiful crust, prove them for six hours then bake them till they’re golden. Then comes the boozy element: a sauce I make with brandy, sweet wine, sugar, vanilla and cream. I carefully reduce this to a delicious caramelised sauce, and finish it with a splash more brandy at the end to give it that extra-boozy finish.

I’m also very proud of our Portuguese tarts. I like mine with a thin, crisp, flaky crust holding a creamy custard centre, blistered on top from the heat of the oven. There’s plenty of technique here: the puff pastry should be made the two days in advance, so it has time to chill fully before you press it into the moulds. I sharpened my puff pastry work when I was a baker at Gidleigh Park, and it became something of an obsession. I like to use only the best French butter for my handmade puff; Isigny-St-Mere has a lower water content and makes for a very flaky finish. Right now, I’m making over eight kilos of dough a week, supplying to the likes of St Ali, Entrecôte, Abacus and Bella Cosi. 

My piping skills also get put to good use on beautiful multi-tiered cakes. My favourite flavour combinations for these include lemon, raspberry and vanilla; coconut, passionfruit and lime; chocolate, salted caramel and honeycomb; and strawberry, vanilla and elderflower.

I’ve spent many hours making macarons, too. For these I go for flavours such as raspberry, lychee and rose; chocolate and whisky; coffee and anise; and – a personal favourite – mandarin and olive oil.

I also combine these passions with a macaron cake. The most popular one so far has been a tribute to Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan, a subtle blend of rose-petal cream, soft and smooth, with lychees, all within a soft yet crunchy macaron envelope.

Explain to us like we’re five-year-olds: what makes what you do special?
I am like a fairy godmother in the cake department.

What are the perfect conditions to enjoy your work?
We have perfect cakes and pastries for any weather, time of the day, mood, event or celebration. I like this quote: “cake is always the answer, the question is irrelevant”. 

Are you here for a long time or a good time?
Definitely a long and good time. This is my baby.

Where can I get some?
We’re an online-based business operating currently on Instagram, so ordering is as easy as sliding into our DMs. Stay tuned, though, for our website (and you never know, maybe an offline store too).

Order some Chic de Partie goodness now via @chicdepartie, or on 0426 378 224, or chichdepartie@aol.com.

 

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