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Frédéric Cassel, a passion for red berries

13 May 2020
Frédéric and Hélène Cassel opened their first boutique in 1994, in Fontainebleau.

Today, the couple manages three boutiques in France, as well as other boutiques in Tokyo, Berlin, Tunis, and Casablanca. Frédéric Cassel, who was president of Relais Desserts for 15 years and who led the French national team to victory at the 2013 Pastry World Cup, continues to look to Mother Nature and the forest for inspiration. With a clear penchant for red berries, he decided to establish his own short local supply chain for these delectable fruits.

A chance meeting creates an opportunity

It all started on a Saturday afternoon fifteen years ago, when Michel Chardon stopped by Frédéric Cassel’s boutique with a few baskets of raspberries. Michel mostly farmed wheat, but also had a plot or two of land to grow raspberries. At the time he had no idea of what to do with all the fruit, so he decided pay a visit to Frédéric, known for his extremely high standards when selecting ingredients.

After tasting the raspberries Michel brought, Frédéric suddenly found himself transported back through time to his grandmother’s garden. It had been years since he had enjoyed such tasty and juicy raspberries. They were freshly picked and still warm from the morning sun.

Not only did Frédéric buy six baskets, but he also asked Michel to start delivering raspberries daily. While Michel did not have enough plants at the time, he seized the opportunity to start to growing raspberries on a much larger scale, first in one greenhouse, then two, and so on. Frédéric also asked him to grow strawberries. This is how a short local supply chain started, from a chance encounter and a common desire to do good.

Today, Michel works with his son Damien, and a third generation is already getting ready to join the family adventure. Since sharing is one of Relais Desserts’ core values, Frédéric introduced his grower to Parisian Relais Desserts pastry chefs, including many who now purchase from Michel. As of now, the Chardon family grows no less than six varieties of strawberry and four varieties of raspberry, and is proud to participate in pastry excellence by working with such prestigious chefs.

Adjusting production to supply 

All the strawberries and raspberries used in Frédéric Cassel’s laboratory come from the Chardon family farm less than 20km away. The farm grows their fruit pesticide free and by using only natural pollination. Deliveries are scheduled every other day, both fruits are only picked when fully ripe, and it goes without saying that they taste extraordinarily good. It will come as no surprise that Frédéric finds red berries so inspirational and that his customers hurry as quickly as possible to taste his strawberry cream cakes, strawberry tarts, and incredible strawberry Saint-Honoré cake.

Frédéric takes advantage of the high season to make fruit purées and compotes that he will use during the winter. His customers also understand that if a season produces fewer strawberries than usual, it means fewer strawberry cream cakes, so they always make sure to place their orders well in advance. ;)

Sometimes customers are disappointed not to see in the display case any of the delicious strawberry tarts that they just tasted. This is out of respect for his customers, and Frédéric’s way of demonstrating his commitment to offering only products of the highest quality, even if it means generating a little frustration. However, when he takes the time to explain his reasoning, customers always understand and gladly come back another day.

This approach is also a great way to educate gourmet foodies, a way to show them that if fruit always tastes better when in season, so do the desserts. Artisans deserve credit for using their expertise to offer the best products at the right time.

To continue your journey through Frédéric Cassel’s world, we encourage you to make his delicious red berry recipes.

And from his new book “Les Fruits Rouges de mon Jardin” (The Red Berries in my Garden), published last year by Editions de la Martnière.

Marie Loones for relais Desserts

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