Macaron marvel

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Ladurée’s Times Square Tea Room opened to great fanfare on December 10, setting the scene for a winter macaron frenzy. Lisa Cam talks to the company’s president David Holder to discover how he turned the brand into an international sensation

As a university student in Paris, David Holder often frequented French luxury sweet house Ladurée, heading straight for the macarons every time. Little did the Frenchman know, however, that he would one day become the driving force behind the global expansion of his favourite patisserie – and, in turn, he would help make those delicious little macarons a sugary sensation around the world. In Hong Kong, the first Ladurée opened last year in Harbour City with further recent openings at Central’s Landmark and a Tea Room at Times Square. And now, almost 30 years since those university days, he tells Time Out he still counts his himself lucky to have landed such a sweet job…

Bonjour David! So, how did you become the president of the Ladurée brand?

I’m from a family of five generations of bakers. So I had my sights set on working in the family business – but, in 1993, it happened that the Ladurée family were having some disagreements within themselves and decided to sell the business. My father actually knew them and made them an offer. My father proposed, in mid-1993, that I should become the president of Ladurée, to take care of this new baby which was arriving in the family. This opportunity came like a star from the sky and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Ladurée, historically, is the pioneer of the double-decker macaron. What was a macaron like before?

It was just a biscuit, made exactly the same, with almond, sugar and white eggs. There was no filling inside. Each was an irregular shape – but Ladurée invented the double-decker macaron, meaning with the two decks you can put a filling like a ganache inside. It was a big, innovative step for French pastries. 

What do you think makes a perfect macaron?

It’s a matter of texture. That’s very important. I think Ladurée is the icon of the macaron, so a perfect macaron is our macaron. It’s our heritage. Ladurée has 150 years of tradition on its shoulders. Even when we create a lot of new flavours, it’s down to the heritage of the process of making our product, as well as the strict selection of raw materials that counts.

How do you balance between tradition and innovation?

I think what makes us unique is that the Ladurée brand means that we are one of the oldest pastry shops in Paris. We have this heritage of more than 150 years, but we have a young team. I’d say 28 is the average age and we have to be proud to be one of the only shops in the world to have this heritage. But we are also moving in a fast world and we need to be the most innovative pastry maker, which we have been for a long time. For the past 20 years we have been coming up with new flavours every season.

The expansion of Ladurée has launched an international macaron frenzy. What would you say sets your macarons apart?

Of course we’re very unique because the other brands, they have been copying the Ladurée macaron. You know, impersonation is the best compliment. Most patisseries offer macarons now, and are emanating Ladurée’s original macaron. The dream team we have now makes sure we control these products so they stay the best of the best in terms of quality. So we have to push forward and be the best at what we do.

Why do you think the macaron craze has been so big in Hong Kong? Have you done anything to cater to the Asian palate?

No, no! It’s the slice of Paris that Ladurée represents that attracts our clients. It’s the heritage of Ladurée that they’re looking for. It’s what they like.

Do you find it a challenge to stay ahead of your competition?

It is a challenge. Every day is a challenge. Every new customer is a challenge. So what we try to do is to have the best product and team and provide the best quality product and service. I think there is one word that can express everything – passion. We are very passionate about what we do. As for the team, they have to be very proud of being in Ladurée. They all come from passion and customers feel it, and come here because they love Ladurée too, you know. 

Lisa Cam

Ladurée Tea Room Kiosk G, Level 3, Times Square, 1 Matheson St, Causeway Bay, 2509 9377; laduree.com.
Ladurée Shop 3224, 3/F, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, 17 Canton Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui,
2175 5028; Shop 211, 2/F, The Landmark, 16 Des Voeux Rd, Central, 2579 0311.

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