Michel Péclard – ascends the throne with a dash of courage

 

 

The “boutique café” that can be discovered in the quaint cobblestoned Napfgasse looks back on a long history. In 1874, it became the property of the eponymous Theodor Schober who installed his family business that ran for the next two generations. Schober’s descendants then leased the property to the Confiserie Teuscher, but the name Schober remained – and still remains – an inextricable component of the brand, although now redefined by Michel Péclard.

How would Proust even begin describing this splendor, if to describe one small Madeleine he all but used up half a tree’s worth of paper? Upon entering Café Schober, a multitude of impressions vie for your attention: the impressive white stuccoed ceiling hung with an enormous chandelier, the wonderful dark wooden flooring, and the vast selection of scrumptious pastries and sweets appetizingly displayed on sterling silver cake stands. Instantly transported back to childhood, you develop a spontaneous urge to peek in those tantalizing boxes sitting on the shelves in the antique cupboards, or to see if the old silver till still works and then, quickly now, try one, two, five pieces of the toothsome array of pastry.

Just as Proust could not check his tribute, you too will be challenged to not start singing the confectioner’s praises once you have tasted these one-of-a-kind delicacies. Which precisely reflects the one-of-a-kind mark Michel Péclard has succeeded on setting in his café – sparking old tradition with fresh individuality. Nowhere, they say, can you find pastries and sweets that even come close.

Yet, before Michel Péclard was actually able to dedicate himself to the myriad details and strict dictates of quality such an enterprise involves, he had to overcome several large obstacles. Just the sheer pressure to succeed when taking on an establishment so steeped in tradition appeared to him as challenging as if he were getting ready to climb the Matterhorn.

In Zurich, the three big names are: Kronenhalle. Odeon. And Schober. So you think twice before volunteering to take on a challenge that may well leave you with the reputation as the guy who made Schober go under.

But after hearing from a close friend that plans were afoot to turn the time-honored premises of Schober into a new venue for a popular clothes brand outlet, the need to save this Zurich landmark overcame his fear of the obstacle and Péclard met the challenge head-on. A challenge that in its diversity proved to be a worthy undertaking for a man of his caliber: disputes amongst the Schober descendants, complications with the brand name “Schober” which Teuscher had protected for its own use, questions of taste that could be taxed as bipolar, and interior design concepts that literally drove the spontaneous entrepreneur up the wall.

Some people suggested refurbishing Schober with Corbusier chairs and putting in neon-colored walls. As if that hasn’t been done a thousand times before. What a nightmare!

During the renovation, Péclard caused jaws to drop on several occasions. Instead of hiring an interior designer, he insisted on employing a set designer to construct a fantasy world like a fairytale, a place to dream with open eyes: of bathing in chocolate, of soaring high above the world, or of being a king – in short, a world as seductive as the one Proust’s delicate little Madeleine conjured up, evoking memories and desires and making them appear within reach.

Show me a person who never dreamt of being a prince or a princess as a child! I want to make that dream come true for everyone, even if only for a moment!

And that is exactly what happens in the “Salon Rouge”. The low ceiling is made of massive crossed wooden beams that alternate with velvet padding, placed there in an attempt to improve the acoustics. (It doesn’t really succeed. The music, more suitable for an elevator, can only be heard if you strain your ears.) Table lamps with ecru-colored tasseled lampshades decorate the coffee tables, and paintings with thick golden frames hang, some decidedly crooked, on vermilion walls. A wondrously regal sensation permeates your senses, and, while you relax luxuriously in the deep cushioned armchairs, you can almost see an elderly couple, conjured up by your surroundings, standing in the kitchens busily decorating piece after piece of pastry.

Once in the kitchens, however, you are brought down to earth with a thump. Bright overhead lighting, hundreds of baking trays and enormous whisks hanging from the walls, and humongous ovens and freezers form a no-nonsense metallic front. A radio is playing, it is extremely hot – at least 36°C – and two young men are silently working at a counter opposite each other. Using Bunsen burners and airbrush techniques they decorate pastries. Not a word is spoken as they work, despite being on their own today. Pastry chef Marc Döhrig, the oldest employee in the kitchens, is away , celebrating his 22nd birthday.

And here, in this very real, fast-paced world, is where Michel Péclard fits in, a man who aside from his surname doesn’t have anything in common with the ornate Parisian world of pâtissiers. With alert, bright blue eyes and a belly laugh that makes the kitchenware tremble in the cupboards, he tells story after story, one tale leading to another, and strings along one anecdote to the next without any prompting. His energy and passion for his work spark off him and can be found in every detail of his café.

I love goodies. I love travelling. I love inspiration. I love this café. I love my work. I love everything I do and I have at least another hundred ideas that I’d like to try out and see if they work.

One of those ideas is to offer space to makers of sweet delights to display their wares – for example those unique jars of exclusive “Gelée de Champagne” produced in the South of France, far away from the city’s bustle, by the culinary couple Catherine and Delphine. And Master Pastry Chef, Patrick Mésiano, responsible for the choice selection of pastry, occasionally receives one of Péclard’s fledgling pastry chefs at his kitchens in Monte Carlo where they can learn from the very best – and maybe one day improve the maestro’s creations with their own ideas. It seems to be the enchanted path to sweeten this traditional brand Schober with the flavor of innovation.

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Comments (1)

susy bachofner | 10.03.2011

HURRA!!!! Endlich mal jemand der Geschichte schätzt und aufhört mit dem neuen, kalten, so sauberen und ohne Leben Schnickschnack! Hoffe es gibt noch mehr solche Menschen.

 


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