French-born pastry chef Nadège Nourian demonstrates an unparalleled level of passion for her craft and it shows in everything she does at Nadège Pâtisserie — the four-location, Toronto-based pastry shop chain Nourian co-owns with Morgan McHugh. Since opening their first location in 2009, the Nadège eponym has received a bounty of accolades and enjoyed a loyal, cult-like following. The duo’s most recent shop is a 2,000-sq.-ft. space in Toronto’s upscale Yorkdale Shopping Centre.
The first thing Nourian ever baked was a Bûche de Noël — a special task which she had taken over from her grandmother. “[My family] only knew what my grandmother made for many years and I had to continue the tradition,” says Nourian. “I wanted it to be so perfect that I took three days to make the decorations.”
Nourian credits her grandmother for inspiring her to become a pastry chef. Although she had no professional training, her grandmother spent her life in the kitchen helping her spouse — a third-generation pastry chef in Lyon, France. “I would spend hours on holidays and weekends helping my grandmother bake and make jam,” she reminisces. “She liked to involve her grandchildren in the process as much as possible and that’s how I first developed a passion for baking.”
Since that first Christmas cake, Nourian has gone on to land jobs at prestigious bakeries around the world — starting in France (Megeve, Provence, Brittany and Normandy) then Sweden and London, where she spent two years working at the world-renowned Ivy Restaurant and six years at Yauatcha Patisserie before settling in Toronto.
At Nadège Pâtisserie, Nourian draws inspiration from colours, fashion, design trends and hours of experimentation in the kitchen. Her baking ethos is “don’t do too much, but don’t do too little.” She says baking with too many flavours can confuse the palette. “The palette can only take so much,” she warns. “We use no more than three flavours in a pastry, but generally stick to just one.”
Nadège Pâtisserie’s offerings include the salted-caramel tart, featuring a decadent salted-caramel cream and a thin, crunchy almond-and-chocolate wafer ($24); a lemon meringue tart with a crunchy base filled with a smooth lemon cream ($5.75 for an individual and $24 for a large); and the Pur Noir made with 70-per-cent grand cru chocolate, a flourless chocolate-biscuit base and chocolate-nib mousse ($8.50 for an individual cake, $36 for six people, $48 for eight people and $60 for 10 people). The chef emphasizes the importance of building experience and staying passionate. She spent many years working for and learning from other bakers before establishing her own brand. Today, the mother of a three-year-old son bakes for 16 to 18 hours per day, six days per week and believes the enormous amount of time she dedicates to her craft is essential to becoming an efficacious pastry chef, but would be “excruciating for one who lacks a genuine passion for baking.”
Volume 49, Number 10
Written By Eric Alister