L'atlier du goutis very busy today. A new customer called to place a large order of Gateau du Voyage, fruit cakes. L'Atlier du Gout is my sister Fuyuko Kondo's French pastry shop and pastry school. It is located on the ground floor of my parents house in Shibuya. When she is baking, the whole house smells of butter burning. That makes coming home to Tokyo, a unique kind of a French experience.
Fuyuko's day starts at six in the morning. She changes into her neatly pressed, spotless white uniform. When I come downstairs with my morning coffee, Fuyuko is talking on the phone to the new customer who placed the big order of fruitcakes. Fuyuko assures her that the cakes will arrive in Osaka before noon tomorrow. The cakes still need one final touch up - dried pineapples rings, pistachios, goji berries and orange peel go on top. Fuyuko slices an end piece and asks me for an opinion. For these fruitcakes, she used a new butter from Hokkaido. I am always tasting her creations. I can never refuse her offer.
Fuyuko did her culinary training with Wittamer in Brussells andEcole Le Notre in Paris in the eighties. Back then, there were only a handful of Japanese studying european pastries abroad. During Fuyuko's apprenticeship, I visited her in Paris a couple of times. I remember her tiny one-room apartment crowded with pastry equipment and pulled sugar flowers. She was practicing even at home. These glossy sugar flowers had a way of brightening her modest room. That year, Fuyuko won a prize in the pulled sugar contest in Paris.
Today, French pastry chefs like my sister have multiplied in numbers. So have the number of pastry shops in Japan. You can find some of the finest French pastries. I always feel at home when I eat Fuyuko's fruitcake in Tokyo. On this visit, I am going to take some lessons in French pastries. Being able to do this in Tokyo is a unique kind of French experience.