The Culture Trip interviewed pastry chefs Baptise Mandon and Giovanni Malecot to learn more about Chouconut and their love for pastry.
When did you find your passion for culinary art?
GM: I found my passion with my family; I always saw my family work a lot. Despite this, my mother always took time to cook us dinner, to peel some potatoes to put around a roast beef, etc. And there was always some apple pie, rice pudding or apple compote at my grandmother’s house.
BM: My parents are the kind of people who always cook; we all made dinner during our childhood. They even established a cooking schedule for each of us. Monday was my day — I had to go buy groceries, then cook, and no matter what, dinner had to be ready at 8pm. My uncle had a Michelin star restaurant for more than 30 years. I used to spend weeks there — I loved seeing him cook — learning all kinds of kitchen skills.
How did you two meet and when did the idea for Chouconut begin?
BOTH: We met during our pastry class, at the age of 18, learning pastry at a high level — making sugar and chocolate showpieces. We even participated in a pastry competition in Paris together. Our paths crossed again in Brussels. A year later, we opened Chouconut.
The selection of desserts range from exquisite choux to decadent donuts — how did you choose which desserts to feature on the menu?
The idea of Chouconut was born in Brussels. We started giving pastry classes during the weekend while working at Le Châlet de la Fôret, a two Michelin star restaurant in Brussels. The positive feedback we got made us realize we had to do more, so we wondered ‘why not open our own pastry shop — not just a common pastry shop; more like a concept.’ The most important thing was to find the products we wanted to serve; three products that we and our customers will love. We came up with the idea of mixing French and American products, and making them a bit more fancy.
What are the sources of inspiration for your pastries?
We have worked for twelve years in pastry shops and restaurants, in France and abroad. Our inspiration came from people whom we met during our career but also from places we’ve visited around the world.
What has been the most memorable moment for each of your careers so far?
GM: My best memory is from my chef Jean-Pierre Crouzil from Plancoët in Brittany, when he gave me an envelope with a letter inside stating the date and the name of my next job: The Bristol Hotel in Paris, with Laurent Jeanin as the pastry chef. That was unforgettable!!!
BM: When I was done working in Orlando and Las Vegas, I had to come back to France without any desire to be there at all. I was looking for a new kind of adventure, for a new challenge. So back in Paris, I went to see Nicolas Berger, executive pastry chef for Alain Ducasse at Le Plaza Athenée. He called a friend of his in New York City looking for a pastry chef position. Two weeks later, I flew to New York and stayed there for a year and a half.
For first-time visitors to Chouconut, which pastry would you recommend?
GM: I recommend the salted caramel chou — this chou is all about love for good food.
BM: I would highly recommend the crème brûlée donuts, crunchy and meltingly soft… can be crazy addictive.
Are individuals able to learn how to make these delicious treats?
GM: When it comes to pastry, nothing is hard, but it needs patience and toughness, and without it, it can be difficult.
BM: We often have to adapt a recipe, depending on the taste we’re looking for, the sweetness, and the texture…
What is your favorite pastry?
GM: My favorite patisserie is the apple pie. It looks simple, but it takes time to understand that the simplest things are the hardest things to make and often are the best things to eat and share with the people we love.
BM: Cinnamon buns for sure — addictive to eat and perfect as a snack with coffee or tea. I discovered it on a trip in Canada, Yukon. A native taught me her secret; since then, I couldn’t stop thinking about that delicious treat.
If you could only eat one pastry for the rest of your life, what would it be?
GM: I would eat lemon pie with meringue, of course.
BM: It has to be as simple as an apple pie, thin and well caramelized.
Finish this sentence: ‘When I think of Brussels, I think…’
GM: When I think of Brussels, I think of a city full of surprises, where you never stop meeting people with good taste.
BM: When I think of Brussels, I do not think of the statue of the child peeing, or the waffles sold in the streets near the Grand Place (even if I love that), and certainly not the huge atom monument (Atomium). Variety of cultures, liberty and experience are the first three words that come to my mind when it comes to describing Brussels.
Chouconut, Avenue Jean Volders 46, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 537 16 92
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am-6:30pm, closed on Monday