A day in the life of a pastry chef

Pastry chefs in discussion


Posted August 17, 2023

Every day is a special occasion at Le Petit Gâteau, which has been turning heads with its showstopping cakes for 16 years. We go behind the scenes to discover the recipe for its sweet success.

Sweet dreams are made of this: a pecan brownie base with layers of almond and hazelnut crunch, tangy passionfruit custard, dark chocolate mousse, and a chocolate glaze and mango jelly. Not surprisingly, Le Petit Gâteau’s signature Brownie and Passionfruit Chocolate Gâteau has been a bestseller since the patisserie first opened its doors 16 years ago.

Executive Pastry Chef Amit Sinha says everyone loves chocolate, but the tropical notes balance the sweetness and make the cake special.

“With this cake you get lots of different textures, from the crunchy base to the light and airy mousse,” Amit says. “All the textures blend together, giving you a nice mouthfeel.”

For a patisserie to last 16 years in food-fickle Melbourne is impressive. Discerning sweet tooths come from all over town to get familiar favourites and unique yuzu and matcha (green tea) concoctions, as well as a coffee and a slice of the signature fruit toast or a quiche for lunch.

Passion for perfection is the key to success

Both Sinha and Sous Chef Josh Cochrane have worked overseas and believe Le Petit Gâteau emulates modern French style. “The French are passionate about their food, and take great care in doing things, but I think Le Petit Gâteau is at the same level,” Cochrane says.

Each cake, tart and croissant represents the patisserie’s pursuit of perfection. Once you get past looking at the mesmerising cake display, you can see through an internal window to the commercial kitchen, where the talented pastry chefs are busy with different tasks.

Cochrane compares it to a military operation. “You have your executive pastry chef at the top making the decisions and the sous chef underneath, like a lieutenant, making sure that all happens. Then the chefs de partie – the sergeants – run their own section and pass on the work to the commis chefs, who are like the foot soldiers,” he says.


It's hard to resist Le Petit Gâteau's Brownie Passionfruit Chocolate Gâteau. Image: Lucas Allen
The Lychee Raspberry cake combines raspberry cream and lychee mousse. Image: Lucas Allen
The Hazelnut Mille Feuille is a delicious combination of nuts, chocolate and cream. Image: Lucas Allen
Lemon Tart is a perennial favourite for Le Petit Gâteau's customers. Photo: Lucas Allen.

What it takes to create exquisite cakes

Customers are often surprised at how long it takes to make these irresistible cakes, which have up to five layers. “The amount of time it takes depends on the cake,” Cochrane says.

“The Hazelnut Mille Feuille, for example, involves four recipes, and we can usually make that in one day, whereas the Brownie Passionate can take up to three days."

Sinha adds: “It’s a one-day process just to prepare the ingredients for a big batch. For the Hazelnut Mille Feuille we need to prepare 10kg of egg white. So that means one of the chefs separates hundreds of egg whites and yolks. You can’t do that by machine.”

Pastry chef prepares green tea crossiants

Le Petit Gâteau makes unique pastries, such as the matcha (green tea) yuzu croissant. Image: Matt Harvey

Every day brings new challenges

As well as the shop front, Le Petit Gâteau caters for RACV conferences and events, RACV Club dining venues and for weddings. Then there’s the renowned hot cross buns, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cakes, the Bûche De Noël for Christmas, and the challenge of making life-size chocolate sculptures for special events: everything from a carbonite Han Solo chocolate for Star Wars Day to a tool set for a Father’s Day display, and an AFL Cup for the RACV Club's annual Grand Final Luncheon.

“There’s a lot to stay on top of and you get surprise orders as well, but Amit and I have been working here for so long we are familiar with the ebb and flow and everything runs pretty smoothly,” Cochrane says.

“The variety of work makes Le Petit Gâteau an interesting place to work. Along with the big kitchen, we have the latest equipment, and a collegial atmosphere, and that means we attract good talented pastry chefs.

Bring all those ingredients together and that adds up to 16 years of sweet success.

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