Votre Plaisir is Prague’s latest high-end pastry shop and Oko! went for an interview with Michal, head chef and Gabriela Hrubec co-owner, to learn more about how and why they started a French Patisserie in the heart of Prague.
Could you tell us a little more about who you are and your activities before the opening of Votre Plaisir?
We are Michal and Gabriela Hrubec, partners in life and also in business. We have been together for almost 15 years as a couple and our shop Votre plaisir has been running for 8 years. Before “VP” Michal was a professional firefighter and external motorcycle journalist, and Gabriela worked on different positions (from bar to manager) in various restaurants and pubs.
Votre Plaisir is a family operated business, can you tell us about how you met and decided to start to work together?
We met in 2005 when I (Michal) was on a tour to make a travel article about Croatia, my friend (photographer) took Gabriela with (they were friends) and so we met, fell in love, and started living together. The decision to work together was made few years later. We both are very passionate about food and from the beginning of our relationship we traveled a lot to discover food. We both were raised in families where good food has a very strong meaning.
How did you fall in love with sweets and why the focus on French Patisserie in particular?
Sweets came across our life when we were on a visit to my brother in French Guyana in South America. He brought us for breakfast a lemon tartelette and it was very delicious, so we said to each other, why don’t we start doing something like this in the Czech Republic? The focus on French patisserie was for us at the beginning very important. We both have a strong relationships to France and we just wanted to do things differently than it was done at the moment in the Czech Republic only very few people were at the time interested in pastry and the customers were used to average desserts for low prices. This has fortunately changed and we are happy about it. At the beginning our selection was only tartelettes with different fillings, we progressively added other types of desserts later.
Did you learn to make French patisserie in France in a school or are you self taught, in either case can you tell us more about your learning process?
The learning process was long and still continues. I (Michal) am now responsible for all the pastry and I am a self-taught. I cannot say that from the beginning I wanted to learn pastry rather that I wanted to understand the core principles of how things worked. I bought a lot of professional oriented books (unfortunately none of them in Czech) and started learning 8 years ago. I was lucky that we had our pastry lab where I could try all the theory in practice. I always say, that recipes are the less important thing, the most is knowing how to handle the ingredients and understand the methods. Then you have to know what you want to achieve and how.
Your latest location is in the heart of Nové Město, is this with a touristic clientele in mind or is this an attempt to repopulate the center of Prague with businesses for the local inhabitants?
We are small family business and in Klimentská we have created with our architect Jan Krejčí a cosy place. We welcome the locals and also the tourists. More than ever we want to make people feel comfortable with an unique dessert experience. We also would like to show to the people that Czech pastry (that has its roots in France, for example our popular Větrník was originally choux ala crème) can also be modern, delicious and “sexy”.
What can we expect from you in the future? Any big plans?
Our plan for this and next years is to focus even more on the local ingredients and create a modern, fresh pastry. We are always learning something new and we always put the best of us in our pastry. So it means we will still be working on our progress and we will try to be ready to any opportunity that live will bring.
Anything you would like to add?
Our pastry is made every day fresh. Our shop is open from 10:00 but our showcase is full around 11:00. We are always happy when we sell everything that day, so it can happen when you come in the evening and there is little choice of deserts. Our showcase is always empty during the night and we offer only fresh daily made desserts.