sweet & chic

Meeting with Julien Dugourd, pastry chef of the two Michelin star restaurant of the Chêvre D’Or in Eze. The occasion is very special, both gourmet and elegant … Indeed, Julien Dugourd has just presentedthe most chic dessert on the planet (!) at the request of the Maison Dior

F1M: Before discovering the “Vanilla Diorama”, a brief introduction on Julien Dugourd: how did you become a pastry chef?

J.D. In fact I was supposed to be a chef … but in the restaurant where I worked at the time there was no staff in the pastry department, and since I had undergone additional training as a chocolatier and pastry chef, I was asked to take care of it. I discovered an environment that

I immediately loved and that I have never left!

F1M: Is pastry a little less “creative” environment than cooking?

J.D. In both fields there are constraints but, in my opinion, in pastry you can play more on the visual aspect, so there is more creativity. You can do many things… take my desserts for example, they have an almost architectural aspect.

F1M: How did the project for the sweet Dior develop? Did they contact you?

J.D. Yes, it is a wonderful story. Last year I met a person from the Dior maison who, after tasting my desserts, proposed an original project: to give life, for the first time in history, to the dessert imagined by Monsieur Christian Dior. At that time, the Maison was launching the “Vanilla Diorama” perfume and they had the idea of also making a cake that had the same vanilla and orange notes as the perfume.

Well, creating this gâteau was the best experience of my professional life!

All images © courtesy of Dior

F1M: Did it take a lot of study to make this dessert?

J.D. It took five months of research and development to achieve this, and everything was approved by Dior. It has been an exceptional adventure, ever since I met François Demachy, the creator of the maison’s fragrances. An exceptional man, an encounter that left a deep mark on me. What really struck me about this experience is learning to discover Christian Dior as a man, someone with values

I recognize myself in.

If we look at what he did, Christian Dior was one of the people who greatly influenced the change in society! He started taking care of women in the postwar years, dressing them, making them beautiful … everyone, and even a pastry chef like me can draw inspiration from Christian Dior.

F1M: Is there the same perception about the cake from your foreign customers (American, Japanese, French, Italian, etc.)?

J.D. No, it’s always great! There are customers who have traveled thousands of kilometers, Americans who have come from Miami on purpose to be able to taste the Vanilla Diorama! We have had many Italians who have traveled three or four hours to come and taste the cake!

F1M: Personally I find that this cake is part of this moment in which French pastry, which has always been characterized by a generous use of butter and sugar,

is looking for a more modern, more sober way.

J.D. In fact, this cake has no added sugars!

Usually, when I imagine a new dessert, I do it using my head … but the Vanilla Diorama, I made it with the heart!

In my research I tried to understand what kind of person Christian Dior was and to get to know the brand values in depth. I wanted to make a small, very refined dessert, with the highest quality products: organic vanilla from Madagascar, organic Navel orange from our region, with no added sugar, no fat, no butter. Everything has been designed so that the cake is sweetened by the natural sugars of fruit and white chocolate.

When Monsieur Dior described this cake, he was talking about vanilla, an orange insert, a thin sheet of white chocolate. So I followed everything to the letter, choosing

a white chocolate that wasn’t too sweet.

Every aspect is taken into consideration, even the height of the cake (which is precisely 2.9 cm high), allows a lady

to taste it without having to open her mouth too much.

Everything is studied down to the smallest detail!

In terms of appearance, the round shape matches both the 1950s desserts and the bottle shape of the Vanilla Diorama perfume. The velvety surface recalls the dusty look of the Dior house in Grandville, while the design on the surface winks at his first designs from 1947 which were reproduced on the cake to obtain a sort of signature.

The whole concept of the dessert is inspired by the apparent external simplicity of the first dresses created by Monsieur Dior, which inside them had six or even seven layers of fabric. Even in the dessert the internal structure is very complex, but on the outside it is presented with sober elegance, embellished with a small gold leaf.