Head chef Jean Michel Raynaud has today been officially inducted into the prestigious Relais Desserts – the world’s most exclusive French Pâtisserie association. La Renaissance is the first pâtisserie in Australia, and indeed the Southern Hemisphere, to achieve this honour.
Relais Desserts is the pâtisserie equivalent of receiving Michelin Stars. However, whilst Michelin Stars have independent judging and the stars are awarded, Relais Desserts is invitation only, with chefs required to be sponsored by two Relais members and assessed by their peers. Consequently, it is renowned for its rigorous selection process.
Formed over 30 years ago in France, the association recognises the best in the profession of French pâtissiers. Currently there are only 80 members in the world, the majority of whom are French or French trained. From the ‘Picasso of Pastry’ himself, Pierre Hermé, to other legends of the craft including Sadaharu Aoki, Paco Torreblanca and Frédéric Cassel, Relais Desserts unites the world pastry elite.
Relais’ aim is simple: to celebrate the art of French pâtisserie and to make it radiate to the four corners of the globe. With Jean Michel now a member it appears they have truly reached every corner!
However, being a member comes with responsibility. Members gather twice yearly to take part in conferences where they share their expertise, collaborate, and exchange ideas. The September conference is held each year in France at The National College of Advanced Training in Pâtisserie (École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie), owned by Alain Ducasse in Yssingeaux. New members are admitted and demonstrate their work to the alumni. The new member is asked to create a centerpiece, a dessert and also a chocolate work, often a bespoke chocolate bar.
Jean Michel’s intricate centerpiece is inspired by the legendary French chef, Marie Antoine Carême. It features cake tiers covered completely in seamless gold leaf, exquisite piping and hand-shaped, textured flowers. Next is his signature dessert, created with quintessentially Australian flavors: a gateau of lemon myrtle, aniseed myrtle and rosella (wild hibiscus). He then finishes with an intricate chocolate bar.
As explained in the Manifesto on the Relais Desserts Website, “Pâtisserie is wholly an Art without compromise, and the fundamental word which Relais Desserts has chosen to represent it, is excellence. The mastering of a manual skill, which demands absolute precision, is the basis on which the creativity of each member can be expressed.”
The search for excellence speaks to the skill and dedication of Jean Michel Raynaud and the team at La Renaissance. In a highly competitive field where the hard work of many pâtissiers goes unnoticed, Jean Michel’s invitation into the Relais Desserts association seems a delightfully sweet and well-deserved reward.