Macarons Royalty – André Smaniotto

Tète-â-Tète – Macarons, Beignets and Bikes with André Smaniotto – ANDRÉ’S MACARONS

If more of us valued food, cheer, song, macarons and beignets [sic] over hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. — J.R.R Tolkien

My Surf Coast Life & Co don’t like to play favourites when it comes to what’s on offer at the Torquay Farmers Market, but OK, we’re putting it out there – André Smaniotto’s macarons and beignets are riding the crest of the Surf Coast wave on our ledger.

Now, we’ve done our fair share of traipsing about those pretty Parisian laneways. And we’ve had the good fortune to sample some of the gorgeous gateaux on offer from the Loire Valley to Provence, and further afield. Little did we know, there was ambrosia on our doorstep that surpasses anything we’ve tasted on our travels.

The delicacies on offer displayed in André’s petite wagonette patisserie sell out faster than Alain Prost tore up Monaco’s Formula One grand prix circuit back in the day.

We can’t guarantee you’ll be privy to any of André’s trade secrets here. But we hope to get the lowdown on where it all began, where you can get your hands on some of this sweet bonbon magic, and where to from here.

MSCL – Salut, André! When and where did it all begin? How did you discover your passion?

ANDRÉ – Salut! The macaron story began in March 2011. I was reading a pastry cookbook, and found a great macaron recipe. I made some for the family, and everyone loved them. So I thought, “Why not make macarons for the Torquay Farmers Market?” And so we did. The rest is history.

My passion for cooking started in France when I was 15. I was helping my French grandmother – an amazing cook. She would only ever use products from her farm. The experience was just magical. And from that time on, I have always loved cooking – and eating!

MSCL – It’s a tough one to call. It’s hard to choose a favourite – macaron or beignet – and silly question, really, as they are completely different animals. We are in love with the green apple, salted caramel and lemon beignets – oh, and the Nutella, vanilla custard, berry, and chocolate ones, too, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. We’ve not come across beignets anywhere else on the Surf Coast, or in Melbourne, for that matter. But it’s no secret the macaron seems to have taken over the world as far as pretty coloured, sweet, edible, irresistible things go. Do you have a favourite?

ANDRÉ – My favourite macarons would have to be the raspberry, passionfruit or maybe salted caramel, Actually all of them! And for the beignets, the vanilla custard and lemon curd.

MSCL – The macarons are perfection; never a crack or crumble, and the flavours are mouthwateringly decadent. The Christmas boxes were too good for Santa, so we didn’t leave any out for him. They were out-of-this-world divine – especially the plum pudding flavoured ones. Is there an Easter selection box coming up? Bastille Day? Halloween perhaps?

ANDRÉ – The Christmas macarons have become a tradition now. So many people look forward to purchasing them during the festive season. At Easter I focus on quality chocolate fillings. Bastille Day is on the French calendar. However, not Halloween. Maybe I should do a pumpkin flavour?

MSCL – Not so sure about the pumpkin flavour! Cognac may make an interesting colour – and flavour – substitute, n’est pas?

We’d love to know how long it takes to make macarons – and beignets – and what’s involved.

ANDRÉ – It takes an average of around 30 hours a week. And that’s not including the time I spend at the market. I normally start production on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights after work.

The most important thing in pastry is to ensure you follow the recipe, and that you measure the ingredients properly. The secret of good macarons and beignets? Use quality ingredients, and concentrate on the flavours by using less sugar and fresh fruits only.

MSCL – The photo shoots of the macaron and beignet towers on your Instagram feed and Facebook page are something else. It looks like there are many strings to your bow. Do you cater for private functions? Where else can we find you?

ANDRÉ – You can find me on my Facebook page and Instagram under Andre’s Macarons. I do cater for wedding bonbonniere, and sometimes wedding and birthday cakes.

MSCL – How do you spend your down time, if you have any? How do you switch off – if ever you do?

ANDRÉ – I don’t have much down time, to be honest. But when I do, I make sure I spend it with my lovely family. How do I switch off? Well, I play soccer for Torquay Surf Coast in the Sunday League. Before work, I train for 1.5 hours at the gym Monday to Friday. I’m doing a triathlon in March, and need to be ready!

MSCL – We hear that you’re hosting André’s Food and Wine Week, Midi Pyrenees, September 15–22 this year. Tell us about that, but not so much that we won’t feel the need to jump on board. It looks absolutely wonderful. Bikes are involved?

ANDRÉ – The tour will be a once-in-a-lifetime fine food experience. And for people who like to cycle – what more can I say? For those who would like to join my cooking tour in France, this is what’s on offer:

— 7 nights twin share at our exclusive chateau
— A hands-on cooking class with me
— Visits to famous French markets
— A tour of local artisan cheese and smallgoods producers
— A degustation lunch cooked by a Michelin star chef
— All breakfasts, dinners – and beverages! – included

And for those who’d like to join the bike tour in France:

— 7 nights twin share at our exclusive chateau
— 6 days of fabulous cycling, with van support
— Ride the famous ‘climbs’ of the 2018 Tour de France
— Again, all breakfasts, dinners – and beverages! – included
— And a custom cycling kit

There’s more information at Bike France – or you may most certainly email us at info@bikefrance.com.au

MSCL – What are your favourite places in France? To eat? To visit? To relax?

ANDRÉ – There are so many beautiful places to visit in France, so it is difficult to suggest one place only as a favourite. However, three places I love may meet your criteria: Auch in the Gers – my hometown. The produce here is simply amazing – foie gras, Armagnac, cassoulet, et cetera. Sarlat in the Périgord – a beautiful town with an amazing truffle. And, of course, Paris, for the history and charm. If you are in Paris, do yourself a favour and book a dining experience at Le Bon Georges bistro – great food, great atmosphere, and reasonably priced. You’ll find Le Bon Georges at 45 Rue Saint-Georges, 75009 Paris.

MSCL – As if preparing macarons and beignets for the weekend hoards in Torquay isn’t enough to go on with, you also hold the title of Food and Beverage General Manager – Geelong Football Club. Mon dieu! Are you a Cats supporter? Don’t answer this one, if you’re not, as we don’t want you to incriminate yourself.

ANDRÉ – Yes, I AM a Cats supporter, and I love the culture of the club. It’s an amazing place to work, and I am lucky to have a fantastic team surrounding me.

MSCL – On a completely different tangent – we ask everybody this – What do you like to listen to? What are you reading right now? And watching?

ANDRÉ – Listen to music? Well, music is like food for me! It depends what mood I am in on the day. I may listen to Vivaldi one day and African music the next – or Midnight Oil. I just love music!

Reading? At the moment I am reading The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle. It’s brilliant! I haven’t been able to put it down since I started.

Watching? You may find it strange, but I’ve just finished watching Season 2 of The Crown, and can’t wait for Season 3. I’m hooked on movies about politics and conspiracy, but they have to be ‘true stories’ – no fiction.

MSCL – Oh, no, we don’t think it strange that you are watching The Crown, André. We’ve done the Season 2 binge already, too. Only bad is we didn’t see any macarons or beignets at the palace table!

Merci beaucoup. À bientôt, André! We look forward to the next batch of  My Surf Coast Life’s most favourite and sweetest things. A perfectly acceptable addiction…

Oh, and just so you know, André – We have friends and family in Melbourne who won’t speak to us if we arrive on their doorsteps without an offering from André’s Macarons. We kind of hoped to keep you to ourselves, but now it seems everyone we know wants a bite of you, too!

André’s Macarons

MSCL – We had to twist Andre’s arm like a hot-buttered croissant for the lowdown on the tour de force that has catapaulted his remarkable culinary career to present day celebrity status. No go. Rien! However, all was not lost. We are most grateful to André’s beautiful wife, Gail, for providing My Surf Coast Life with the bragging rights that follow…

At 15 André commenced his apprenticeship in commercial cookery at a culinary academy in the southwest of France. He then went on to work in numerous restaurants and hotels in France. André’s last placement there was at Monsieur Séguin, multi-award winning patisserie.

In 1990, André was Commis Chef at the French Horn Hotel, Sunning on Thames in England, run by Paul Bocuse, and Chef de Cuisine, Renee Emin. André then moved to Belgium, where he gained valuable experience at the Gourmandine Restaurant – 1 Michelin Star – as Chef de Partie, where he oversaw the pastry section. Two years later, André relocated to a five-star hotel in Switzerland, where he worked as a sous chef.

In 1998 André moved to Melbourne to take up a position at the Sheraton, where he worked for three years as Executive Sous Chef, responsible for overseeing 55 chefs during his time there.

André was 29 when he was given his first Executive Chef position at the Four Points by Sheraton, Geelong. Three years later, André was offered a transfer to the Sheraton Tahiti, French Polynesia, where he was promoted to Executive Chef – Director of Food and Beverage.

In late 2005, André returned to Australia to join the team at Crown Melbourne, where he was appointed Culinary Trainer. André teaches 60-plus apprentices a week, and trains students for prestigious culinary competitions.

In 2008 André was elevated to the position of Manager Crown, Melbourne.

In 2012, André joined the newly opened RACV Resort Torquay as Food and Beverage Manager.

In May 2017, the Geelong Cats officially unveiled the Charles Brownlow Stand, coincidental upon André taking up the position of General Manager Food and Beverage, Geelong Football Club.

Awards:

2007 – Crown Food and Beverage – Winner Professional Development Restaurant and Catering Victoria Awards for Excellence

2005 – Creator and President of the Chefs Association, Tahiti, French Polynesia – Poly Chef

2000 – Finalist Best Restaurant Award MasterCard

2000 – Winner Best Restaurant, Australian Hotels Association

1999 – Winner Watson Philip Millennium Calendar Competition

1999 – Fish cookbook – Granite City Fish

1998 – Represented Scotland at the Cooking Exhibition, France; awarded 2nd prize at the National Competition, Scotland

1997 – Awarded 5th prize at the National Competition, Scotland

1990 – Awarded 6th prize at the National Competition, France

1990 – Awarded 1st prize at the National Competition, France

2007 – Awarded Crown Trainer of the Year

2008 – Awarded Crown Manger of the Year

2013 – Awarded RACV Manager of the Year

André has been a judge and mentor for the Bocuse d’Or since 2014

 

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