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Starting my own pastry

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I have retail consulting experience with a top notch strategy consulting firm, but no culnilary / pastry experience. I am currently in the process of establishing an upscale FRENCH Pastry chain in Cairo - Egypt. The chain will offer three main categories of pastry; cakes, gateaus and cookies and distribution will target both, the walk in retail as well as catering sector. My plan, in case of success, to grow to 5 - 6 branches over the coming 3 years. Target sales is to average EGP 6000 per day (USD 1000 per day) after the first year, which is the equivilent of around 40 cakes / gateau dozens

Just to give you the flavor of the Egyptian market, the upscale market is primarily monopolized by one player. Handful of other players have tried to enter that market but havent been as successful - albiet they are still operating and making good on profits. Afterall, a typical pastry would break even at around EGP 2500 per day

I beleive that I need to introduce a differentiated and appealing product menu to make it succeed. Once I do this I think it will be a success story

I thought of several success factors that I have to make sure are in place

1. The right menu
2. The right ingredients
3. The right chef
4. The right equipment
5. The right location

I am sure there is a long list of success factors, but those are what i beleive to be critical

In that context, I need your input on several areas, specifically:

1. Having know what is being offered by the other upscale pastires in Cairo, how would I best approach developing my menu?

I thought of making a tour to Paris, just seeing what is being offered there and what can be copied in my store. Afterall, as I said, it is a very virgin market and I dont plan to reinvent the wheel at that point. Also, I only need around +/- 10 types of each category to start my menu (10 cake types, 10 gateau types ... etc

2. How would I best go about hiring an upscale french pastry chef - someone with experience with as assistant chef in a known pastry would be good. Are there any headhunters? Are there any reliable websites? Do you think cold calling a good option i.e. going to a pastry and asking to talk to the chef and giving him an offer after testing him???

3. What are the list of equipment / finishing / assets that I need for the kitchen. I realize that it would vary with my menu slightly

4. Do you think a chef would be able to provide reliable advice on the set up, brands for the kitchen

5. Any pastry trade shows that could be benefitial for me to visit and gather more information

6. How much should I expect the chef salary to be given that he will need to relocate to cairo - egypt

I realize that the geography is not of high interest since most of your discussions are concentrated on the US and Europe but your input is highly appreciated

post #2 of 12
I appreciate the fact that you want to open a pastry shop but without baking experience I hope you realize that the success or failure of this business would depend almost entirely upon your chef.

If you're interested in opening a French bakery, would you hire local bakers with the appropriate qualifications in Egypt or would you import a chef from France?

My best advice at this point would be for you to find and hire a chef. The chef could help you scout an initial location for your establishment and would be an important asset for assisting with the bake shop design and the selection of initial tools and equipment.

If you accept the premise that form follows function, you really can't design a menu unless you know what tools and equipment you'll have. The development of a menu would also be dependent upon the chef's ability and knowledge.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your reply,

I totally agree that the Chef would be the major factor in the success of the pastry.

And to answer your question below, My initial assumption would be to import a chef - preferably from France - because from the pastry products I have seen in the market in Cairo, we dont have the really talented chefs here !! Any thoughts on how to approach that?

I am not however on your point below " you really can't design a menu unless you know what tools and equipment you'll have". I thought I will work it backwards i.e. I will determine what products I will introduce which will be an iterative process with selecting my Chef (among several ofcourse), and then determine the equipment required to develop that menu. Could you please clarify
post #4 of 12
I am a culinary chef, turned culinary arts instructor. Since I am not a pastry chef, I'll give you an example drawn from my own observations.

I once knew a chef who took a job at a tiny restaurant with a kitchen that was only a little bigger than a closet. The owners wanted a "fine dining" establishment. They had no culinary background but they knew what they liked. They created a lavish menu with over 85 items ... but provided only one stove with four gas burners, a single oven, and no hot holding equipment.

The business failed because the owners failed to appreciate that form follows function.

The menu they envisioned was simply not realistic given the size of their kitchen and the lack of critical equipment. To survive, they should have drastically revised their menu. Better yet, they should have either remodeled and expanded the kitchen prior to opening or purchased a different establishment altogether.

P.S. In retrospect, I will add that the working chef in question was young and relatively inexperienced. Having looked at the menu and kitchen, he should have seen a disaster in the making and not signed on with this operation. As it was, he got an unfortunate first hand view of a business that went into bankruptcy.
post #5 of 12
ok, thats as far as I read and all I need to know.
I am a french pastry chef, English born.
20 yrs owning a french pastry shop.

Unless make the pastry chef your partner, they invest their life savings so they can't walk out in hissy fit and they have a proven track record of making money, there are plenty of pastry chefs but few who know how to turn a profit or with street level business experience.

Your choices are 1 learn to bake yourself , 2 marry one or 3 walk away.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply ....

Well the second option doesnt seem to be a viable one since I am already engaged :)

Do you think learning to bake myself is really an option? And if it is what time frame are we talking about?

Also, from my side, I am definitely open for partnership with a Chef - few questions in that regards;

1. Do you think such model would be appealing for any chef?
2. Do you know any chefs who would be interested?
3. Do you know any French Pastry chefs who would be interested in moving to Cairo, in general?

post #7 of 12
I'm a former expatriate and have lived overseas off and on for 17 years ... Ghana ... Thailand ... El Salvador ... Saudi Arabia ... and Lebanon.

Would a French pastry chef be interested in moving to Cairo?

It would depend upon a number of factors.

If this chef was married and had kids, where would his kids go to school? Is there a private French school in the area?

What sort of package deal would you offer? Most expatriates expect an annual round trip plane ticket back to their point of origin. Shipping expenses, assigned housing, transportation, assistance with filling out and paying local taxes, and medical insurance are also commonly used to attract expats.

What about the language barrier? You are obviously fluent in English, but would you need your chef to be fluent in English? What about Arabic? Since your chef would presumably not be the only person in the pastry shop, how would he/she communicate with the staff?

As an alternative to a French pastry chef, have you considered recruiting a Lebanese?
Lebanon was a former French colony and there are Lebanese chefs who speak both French and Arabic.

Given the state of Lebanon's economy, you might be able to find a French trained Lebanese chef at a fraction of what it might cost you to attract a French chef.
post #8 of 12
By the way ... did you know that there's a Cordon Bleu affiliated culinary arts school in Jounieh, Lebanon? Here's a link to their site: Beirut
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
I certainly like the idea of considering a libanese chef, definitely worth persuing ... I take it you beleive Libanese chefs to be competitive and comparable to French ones when it comes to french pastry, given your libanese experience?!

Just to answer your questions above, all the components you talked about are available

- Many private french schools are available in Cairo
- Medical Insurance, round trip ticket would be a component of the package
- I am open for providing the chef stock options to ensure his committment - which will ofcourse mean lower fixed pay but higher upside if we make it
- It would be preferable for him to have minimum conversational english language to facilitate running the operations - I definitely have to be present to facilitate communication and learn myself
post #10 of 12
To train to european standards you'd need 5-10 yrs , that supposes you are cut out for it in the first place. So its probably not practical.

I would steer clear of culinary school grads unless they have at least 5 yrs training outside of school, I'd prefer 10 yrs experience if I were looking.
I thought I knew it all after 5 yrs as an apprentice,
then after 20 yrs I knew I'd never know it all.
Now after 35yrs I forget where I put it all. :)

I'm sure Egypt is a fascinating place but .... have you considered emphasizing a cafe with bakery only playing a minor role,thats the trend in the USA the past 10 yrs, bakeries are fading away due to labor cost.
Theres a lot more money in a $5 sandwich, zero skill , cheap labor to assemble, just a bit of common sense and decent bread.

Theres a few ex-pat pastry chefs at the hotels in Egypt,
maybe you could steal one away.
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Sure I have thought of a cafe concept with bread based "fast" sandwitches / salads

However, there are so many cafe's in cairo, both local and foreign brands, including famous brands as Starbucks, costa, second cup ... etc

Having said that, still a cafe with a really good coffee base, creative drinks and nice bread / fast salad based menu would succeed ...

I am currently looking within the expat chefs in Hotels ... my only concern would be that they may bring me the same menu they are offering ... and hence I am not bringing a new product to the market
post #12 of 12

Dear sir

we could help from a to z still looking for help

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