Claire Clark: The Great British Bake Off should encourage investors to ‘take a gamble’ on UK pastry chefs

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pastry chef

Claire Clark, one of the world's leading pastry chefs, has revealed she harbours ambitions of opening her own dessert restaurant but was still struggling to secure financing
Claire Clark, one of the world's leading pastry chefs, has revealed she harbours ambitions of opening her own dessert restaurant but was still struggling to secure financing
Claire Clark, former pastry chef at three Michelin-starred restaurant The French Laundry, has expressed her wish that the success of The Great British Bake Off will change perceptions of dessert chefs and help her and others get the finance to open solo dessert ventures.

Clark, who was speaking exclusively to BigHospitality after her Centre Stage appearance at The Restaurant Show,​ revealed she is still pursuing her dream of opening a large-scale London business which would combine a restaurant, tea room, bar and retail space but said getting the investment after returning from the USA had proved difficult.

“When I came back two years ago I naively thought I was going to waltz back, get some investment and do my lifelong dream," she said. "It would be a big footage with all day dining but focussing highly on patisserie."

Pastry gamble

The chef, who has won a string of accolades including being named Best Pastry Chef by Restaurant magazine and being awarded an MBE, is currently working around the world as a consultant for a number of restaurants and retail businesses and building a solo brand for herself.

However she declared her hope that The Great British Bake Off, changing attitudes to sweet foods by diners and small advances in the treatment of pastry chefs in the UK might lead to her being able to develop one part of her grand dessert-based restaurant dream.

“I need someone to take a gamble on me and every pastry chef will tell you the same. Take a gamble on the pastry, baking and patisserie worlds – The Great British Bake Off has been fabulous for saying there are loads of people out there who do this.”

"It is changing slowly but the perceptions are still very continental about going to a patisserie to get your cake and leave. Baking and patisserie is off the scale at the moment – it has just gone ballistic. The time to have somewhere that is pastry-orientated is now.”

Dream

With a number of leads, opportunities and business propositions but nothing that has come to fruition, Clark is now hoping to open a small 21st century tea room or retail environment with the aim of pursuing the entire project she has planned if successful.

Guests to the female-orientated eatery, once it opens, will find somewhere they can have breakfast, afternoon tea, casual lunch with a small amount of savoury options and dinner. Visitors will also be able to just shop or sit at the tea bar and sample a Michelin-star quality dessert.

Limelight

Welcoming the popularity of William Curley and Damian Allsop, Clark said there had been some growth of interest in the unknown chef behind the sweet treats at the end of a meal. However she warned UK chefs, unlike their continental counterparts, were still always 'stood behind someone else'. "This has always been the problem and I think will always be the problem to some extent."

That lack of limelight, Clark argued, was the reason why a career as a pastry chef was still not as respected or sought after as it should be or is elsewhere.

What else would make a difference? Another TV executive making a similar gamble as the producer who commissioned The Great British Bake Off, she suggested.

"We have Masterchef, Celebrity Masterchef, and every kind of Masterchef you can think of but do we have a pastry-based Masterchef? How fabulous would that be? We could be having professionals making croquembouche and wedding cakes - it would be amazing to see! They are frightened it isn’t going to work."

To read some of Claire Clark's top tips on making more from your dessert menu and for our full coverage of the Top 10 things we learnt at The Restaurant Show this year - check out our special article here.

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1 comment

rich boy needed

Posted by Ann,

Is this another plea from Mrs Clark crying for a rich sponsor? We have been listening to this since 1999.There are plenty of pastry chefs who have there own business's such as Damian Allsopp, Marc Demarquette, William Curley, Chris Bachmann, Bill McCarrick, all successfull too.

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