Our story: Alastair Gourlay, founder of Real Patisserie
As a child and even as even young adult I was always going to be a farmer. I was brought up on a hilly mixed farm on the Welsh borders, and went on to study agriculture at Edinburgh. During my third year there I was given the opportunity to swap with a French university.
I took it, but didn't finish the year. Increasingly appreciating living in towns and cities I decided to change tack. One of the many things I found myself enjoying in France was stopping, pretty much every time I walked past a patisserie, to eat something freshly baked and delicious. In fact it seemed I was practically unable to walk past a good patisserie and not go in and buy something. These were products that were rarely available in the UK during the early nineties.
It occurred to me, eating breakfast one morning after an all nighter, that if I could learn to make the stuff properly and make it available to people at a sensible price and from within a nice environment I could hardly go wrong. And the whole idea suited me well, making bread, pastry and cakes seemed a natural progression from where I had been at. I felt I would simply be taking what the farmers were making: flour, butter, sugar, eggs etc and taking them one step further.
We have not looked back. I spent about five years in France learning the trade and did a two year apprenticeship in Millau, a town about 80 miles NW of Montpellier.
I then moved to Paris and worked in several places as well as starting a family before coming back to England. Within a year of returning the Trafalgar Street shop was opened and my young family and I lived above it.
Real Patisserie has grown because we care, do things well, don't like to say no and because there is demand. The wholesale side of the business is increasingly significant. It will continue to grow, slowly, organically and without speculative investors. We may add new shops.
Its been such a privilege to have had the opportunity to make all this happen! Hard work sometimes, but very rewarding and a lot of fun.
None of it would have happened without the teams and the people who have grown the business with me and obviously our customers. You can't, after all, do much on your own.