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Sunday, January 16, 2022

‘Picasso of Pastry’ visits Qatar to indulge the country’s sweet-tooth


All photos by Chantelle D’mello

French dessert expert Pierre Hermé became the latest in a string of celebrity chefs to visit Qatar when he made a special appearance at his outlet at Lagoona Mall this week.

Hermé – who has been dubbed the “Picasso of Pastry” by Vogue – was greeted at the event by around 70 fans, mostly from Qatar’s French expat community.

Hermé’s visit follows hot on the heels of appearances by chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa at the opening of the Doha branch of his Japanese restaurant chain Nobu last week, and British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay at the St. Regis Doha last month.

Like the other chefs, Hermé aimed to attract more publicity to his business venture while here.

Speaking to Doha News, the pastry king said that his team had worked hard to make his brand more well-known in Qatar since the Lagoona store opened two years ago, and that they were now planning an expansion in the country:

“I am proud to be here…We started from nothing, always when we go to a (new) country, we start from nothing and we try to make it better day to day. Some Qatari people know the brand, but most didn’t, so we had to make the brand more well-known.

But people like sweets here, and a lot of people have told me that they like our products. We will probably open another boutique or a cafe…but in the next few years,” he said.

Pricey pastries

Hermé’s stores are particularly well known for their macarons, which have gained something of a cult-following.

Macarons at Pierre Herme
Macarons at Pierre Herme

This is in part due to their innovative and unusual flavors, such as miso and chocolate, hazelnut oil and asparagus and carrots and cardamon.

But the merchandise, which is flown in from France, rather than being made in Qatar, comes at a hefty price.

Chocolates at Pierre Herme
Chocolates at Pierre Herme

A box of 12 macarons costs QR180, while a small jar of jam, spread or compote retails for QR70. Chocolates and gift boxes are similarly priced, and can retail at more than QR200 per box.

In addition to being imported, the cost can also be explained by Herme’s use of unusual ingredients and his attention to detail.

He held a macaron-making master class at the St. Regis Doha during his trip, and attendee Farheen Allsopp from Harper’s Bazaar told Doha News that the manufacturing process for his new finger lime macarons seemed to be incredibly complex:

“It’s crazy…it takes more than two days to make it, because all the different components have to rest and settle…and it’s made from finger limes, which are grown in California and have a caviar-like texture,” she said.

Sweet addiction

Qatar’s love of all things sugary is well-known, with its malls sporting an abundance of both local and international brands of sweet treats, including Krispy Kreme, Laduree and Cold Stone Creamery.

This obsession with sugar runs directly in competition with government drives to improve the health of Qatar’s residents, in the face of concerning statistics about diabetes and obesity.

Beat Diabetes walk-a-thon
Beat Diabetes walk-a-thon

Qatar’s diabetes rate is one of the highest in the world, as nearly a quarter of residents here live with the disease, which can increase the risk of health complications such as kidney disease and blindness, as well as shortened lifespans.

The government has also been under increasing pressure to take steps to tackle obesity, as more than three-quarters of Qatar’s adult population are considered overweight or obese, according to an international study led by the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) published last year.

Earlier this year, the Qatari government said that it was revisiting the idea of requiring all restaurants in Qatar to display the calorific content of their meals, in a bid to improve the nation’s health.

There’s no sign of this being introduced so far, however, so Qatar’s macaron lovers and dessert aficionados have a while yet before they are confronted by the calorie content of their favorite sweet indulgences.

Have you visited Hermé’s store? Thoughts?

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