Robert Bullock, owner and founder of Le Patissier, has always had a great love of food, something he believes stemmed from his mother’s weekend baking:
“My mum is a very good cook and she’d always be making cakes at the weekend and I was always first to lick the bowl so to speak. So really, my passion started there.”
Following his time at school, Robert attended catering college: “It was general catering college so we studied the kitchen, restaurant and housekeeping.”
I actually wanted to do the hotel management route when I started college, but I left wanting to be a chef.
From there, the English native worked in a number of UK restaurants, hotels and bakeries, including a French bakery that he admits was a real challenge:
“I worked a minimum of 80 hours a week on basic pay, so I ended up taking home 90 quid for two weeks’ worth of work. This was in the early 1990s and I was making 500-600 mini brioche a day which was a challenge. But what that experience does is it disciplines you for the kitchen, which is great.”
Eventually Robert found himself working as head pastry chef for LSG Sky Chefs in 1996. It was at this time that he expanded is skill-set by completing a business degree at night:
“I stayed at LSG Sky Chef for six years and ended up as one of their senior managers. In 2002, I was seconded to Ireland to run Aer Lingus catering.”
Managing the catering division and the on-board sale of food for Aer Lingus, Robert found himself having “quite good fun” in the position and ended up staying put for three and a half years.
From here, he utilised his business skills and advanced through the ranks, holding the positions of Aer Lingus’ Head of Cargo and later Aer Lingus’ Head of Operations at Dublin Airport.
Despite his success, Robert couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that he was moving too far away from his passion. Being a pastry chef by trade, he decided it was time to go back to his roots:
I had done my time and as I felt I was moving too far away from food, I took six months off. And then I decided to start my own business.
He added: “I wanted to get back to food and there weren’t really any jobs that were at the level I wanted. So it was a case of ‘ok there’s definitely a market for what I call high-end desserts’.”
So over Christmas 2012, Robert started “playing around with the kitchen at home” and by 2013, he started to get more serious about his business, Le Patissier:
“I started the patissier from home and was supplying desserts to a couple of coffee shops like Anderson’s in Drumcondra”, and that grew to include hotels and restaurants.
“I found a shared kitchen in Dunboyne and then more contacts came on board like Bewley’s, back before the renovation. And really, the business just grew from there.”
He laughs, adding: “When Bewley’s came on board, we ran out of space in the shared kitchen. It was then that I took out my first business loan so that the business could continue to grow.”
Describing what he and his team do, Robert explained: “We make everything from scratch. It’s all handmade using very basic natural ingredients like butter, sugar, eggs and flour. We don’t use any pre-mixes at all. It’s all done from scratch.”
All of the dairy used in the production of Le Patissier’s desserts is Irish and they also get their fruit from a local source, something that is very important to Robert:
“All our dairy is Irish and all of our eggs are free range and pasteurised. We try to keep it as Irish as we can and as local as we can. For example, my veg man is in Dunboyne. We’ve been buying fruit from him since we started and will continue to do so.”
As Robert describes all of his products, from tarts and cheesecakes to chocolate mousse, I wonder how on earth he manages to resist devouring everything in sight (because I know I wouldn’t be able to resist).
In response, he does admit that he has a sweet tooth, especially around his favourite treat: “We do a range of tarts and we have this Lemon Meringue Tart. It’s one of my favourites because the pastry is very crisp and it’s very traditionally made. I have such a sweet tooth and it would still be my go to if I wanted a quick sugar hit.”
The aforementioned Lemon Meringue Tart is actually a Blas na hEireann Irish Food Award winner. The tart is also part of Robert’s Simply Better range in Dunnes Stores:
“It’s great to be working with the guys at Simply Better. We’ve learned so much from them, especially with the retail side of things. Neven Maguire was actually here in the kitchen recently which was brilliant.
“Currently, there are three lines in Dunnes; the lemon tart, a bread and butter pudding made with croissants and a profiterole stack. Half of the profiteroles are filled with chocolate and the other half are filled with creme mousseline.”
Coming up to Christmas, you’ll be able to get your chocolate-loving hands on Robert’s Handmade Dark Chocolate Mousse Dessert and there’ll even be some more items in Simply Better next year, including some sinful shot glasses filled with chocolate salted caramel, mango and raspberry.
Simply Better are also thrilled to be working with Robert and the Le Patissier team, commenting: “We are delighted to work closely with Robert and his team from Le Patissier to source our range of Simply Better Handmade Desserts.”
Robert and his team have created a house of excellence for high quality desserts, bringing the passion of French patisserie to Ireland.”
They added: “We started working with Robert in 2015 and launched a small range of products for Christmas. The range has grown each year and we are excited to launch our new Irish Handmade Dark Chocolate Mousse Dessert this Christmas, it is a must-have for anyone who likes chocolate.”
Every product produced by Robert and his team is made to the highest standard and we were delighted to see this being recognised this year when our Simply Better Irish Handmade Tarte au Citron Meringue received a silver award at the Blas na hEireann Awards.
For now, Robert is happy with his busy business and couldn’t imagine doing anything else with his life: “We’ve been in business for 5 years now and it’s going from strength to strength. We have to continue to strive to be different but the future is looking bright.”
He added: “Working with Simply Better is a great link to the outside world for Le Patissier because it’s brilliant to be able to share what we do with the public. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else in life. This is it for me. It’s like a family now.”
Wherever the business goes and however much it continues to grow, Robert maintains that he wants to stay true to his original method, which is making things from scratch.
You can find beautiful handmade desserts from Robert and his team at Le Patissier as part of the Simply Better range in Dunnes Stores this Christmas.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.