Up until about four years ago I had no idea what a MOF was and if you’d suggested that a movie about pastry chefs would be gripping viewing I would have scoffed unkindly. However, thanks to a suggestion back then from gun Adelaide chocolatier Steven ter Horst, I hunted down and watched the most excellent movie “Kings of Pastry” and, thanks to Tourisme Montreal, last year I spent some time in the company of Christian Faure, president of the North-American Chapter for the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Society (MOFS).
“Kings of Pastry” is the most extraordinary film about a group of international pastry chefs and their battle for France’s most prestigious craftsmen award, Meilleur Ouvrier de France. Contrary to any preconceived notions you may have about the fascination of such a subject, let me assure you that this movie had me sitting on the edge of my seat and, at one stage, reduced to tears. Go figure.
The MOF is a unique and distinguished recognition awarded to craftsmen in a variety of skills who qualify by completing a great masterpiece with the goal of achieving perfection – in competition conditions, within a limited amount of time and only using a limited amount of basic equipment. So, no pressure there. The contest is organised by the French Ministry of Labour, but is entered by some brave souls from other countries. It is astonishingly gruelling, sometimes taking years to prepare for and costing much in both financial and personal terms, with many marriages paying the ultimate price. Those who succeed in the field of pastry wear the supreme recognition – a blue, white and red striped collar – a badge of honour which is peerless (and, I’m told, illegal to impersonate).
Christian Faure, of Maison Christian Faure Patisserie in Montreal, achieved his MOF in 1997 and has amassed a jaw-dropping collection of international awards in a career that has taken him from Michelin starred restaurants to palaces, Olympic venues and the highest political domains in the world. Once awarded the ‘Best Pastry Chef of the World” title by The American Academy for Hospitality Sciences, Faure is not only a truly gifted and passionate pastry chef, he is also known for his generosity and eagerness to share his knowledge. This commitment to pass on his extraordinary skills to the next generation of pastry chefs is not just talk and, in 2013, he founded the Maison Christian Faure and Pastry School to do just that.
Situated in a state-of-the-art renovated, but still charming, 300 year old building in the old part of Montreal, Christian Faure’s pastry shop, parlour and pastry school is the first international school dedicated to French pastry in Canada. It offers a full professional program, amateur classes focusing on various aspects of pastry and children’s classes. The school attracts students from all over the world and, with all of the instructors at the school themselves MOF’s, it would be hard to come up with a more extensive pastry education. Oh – plus the fact that you get to live in Montreal while studying!
Of course, as the old saying goes (or something quite close to it) – those who can, do and those who can’t eat. I’m happy to fall into the latter category, so was very satisfied to finish my visit by sampling some of the exquisite pastries on offer in the parlour. The range is wickedly tempting and celestially outstanding. Just what you’d expect from the worlds best, really.