Taking pride in patisserie
From living in six different countries, Alla Smith got a taste for discovering exotic foods and exciting flavours.
To pursue her passion for patisserie, she joined the French Patisserie Level 2 course at Leeds City College, which led to the creation of her own Leeds-based dessert business, Le Petit Gateau.
Appetite for baking
Alla had previous experience running a food business in Singapore, where she specialised in Russian cuisine.
“As I’m originally from Russia, I am self-taught in making specialty dishes such as borsch, pierogi and medovik cake. My expertise was relatively amateur, so when I moved to the UK I was keen to acquire professional baking experience.
“I began my journey by studying the patisserie course at college. After each session, I would share my bakes with family and friends who seemed to love them. I took some sample eclairs into a local bar, who I then worked with to prepare afternoon tea for Mother’s Day.
“This was my first real challenge – I had to create the menu, research recipes and plan for 70 people. Due to the lockdown, we had to prepare the food in pizza boxes and the rest is history! It was a fantastic success and gave me the confidence to kickstart my business.”
Sweet smell of success
After researching similar businesses in the area, Alla identified a gap in the market for her deliciously decorative desserts.
“I set up Le Petit Gateau last summer, as I realised there was a high demand for afternoon teas and cakes in the area. As I’m a mum of four, I was interested in pursuing a career which allowed me to work from home so I could be with my children.
“My office has been transformed into a kitchen, where I make afternoon teas, celebration cakes, grazing boxes, brunches and breakfasts. It’s been a real success so far; I often get many orders from locals on Facebook. I try to introduce new treats depending on the season and what I learn in college.”
Practice makes perfect
Alla is now studying a Level 3 patisserie course at college, where she is enhancing her expert baking skills.
“My college lessons are the best day of the week; they give me the chance to develop exciting new abilities in a professional kitchen environment. We learn how to make pastry, bread, chocolate and cold desserts.
“The course has helped significantly with the running of my business. Everything I learn at college inspires my menu and I often practise the skills I learn at college on my own food. For example, the chocolate work I create on celebration cakes gives me the practice I need for my formal assessment.
“Before coming to college, I had no knowledge of how a professional kitchen should be organised or how to prepare dishes correctly. Although you can find information online, nothing can ever replace the hands-on, valuable experience and knowledge you get from the college course. Not to mention, the friendly atmosphere and support from tutors.”
Ambitions to grow
Within the next five years, Alla hopes to upscale her business by moving into bigger spaces and offering classes.
“In the future, I’d love to own my own shop in the local area or have a kitchen unit in my garden. This space would be perfect for holding masterclasses, where I can teach people my recipes and help to develop their baking skills.”
Read more about the college’s patisserie courses here.