Constant innovation to stay at the top
According to Bernard Proot, owner of patisserie DelReY in Antwerp, for a long time nothing was more beautiful or satisfying than making a tasty product that makes the consumer happy. However, he sees a need for adaptation and renewal within the profession. “What is a good glaze today, may be different tomorrow. In order to continue to grow as a pastry chef, you have to ask yourself critical questions all the time.”
Bernard Proot and his wife Anne Seutin are the third generation to have made the DelReY company into what it is today. The first generation produced only chocolate, from 1949 onwards. The second generation added desserts and biscuits. Bernard and Anne, for their part, have allowed DelReY to grow considerably by making pastries and ice cream and by setting up a complete chocolate lounge. Meanwhile, two of their four children, Jan and Julie Proot, are ready to take over from them. It is the first time that DelReY has been transferred within a family.
Creating quality together
DelReY’s success is not solely due to the owners themselves. The arrival of Gunther Van Essche, world pastry champion, has done a lot of good. For more than 25 years he has been DelReY’s Chief Pastry Chef. He managed to attract excellent pastry chefs such as Pierre Marcolini and Rik Debaere, and was trained by Marc Debailleul. “We share the same values when it comes to patisserie,” says Proot. “For us, quality is paramount. We also all feel a great passion for patisserie, the need to be accessible to a wide audience and the desire to contribute to a lower carbon footprint. We use as little plastic as possible and try to avoid unnecessary additives in our pastries.”
According to Proot, patisserie will continue to evolve every day – and so must its makers. “What was good yesterday is not necessarily appreciated today. The demand for innovation can be about taste, but also about technology. Today's consumers are fickle, demanding and not afraid to ask critical questions, for example about the use of colourings or E numbers. In order to continue to grow as a pastry chef, you also have to ask yourself critical questions all the time. It is important to be constantly guided by new challenges.”
Bernard Proot has been a member of Relais Desserts since 1994. It has earned him international friendships with like-minded fellow professionals. “It is not so much about sharing a recipe, but much more about sharing knowledge and techniques. What binds us is the love of French patisserie. It is very interesting to discover how you can give it a Belgian, Japanese or Spanish twist. We all learn from that.”
To keep the staff motivated, DelReY organises a competition within the team every month: ‘cake of the month’. Whoever proposes the best product may add it to the DelReY assortment for a month. According to Proot, it increases the involvement of employees.
Incidentally, he sees an increasing preference for simpler and more traditional pastries. “The entremet will always remain in our range. But we also see that sometimes people could do with something less complicated.” Using Debic Stand & Overrun and its various types of butter, DelReY developed a recipe for a tasty espresso cake and the fresh ice cream cake Helena.