We talk to the founder of Manchester's original loaded croissantier, Saint Croissants
The pandemic has been many things for the food and drink industry, not many of them positive. But a silver lining to the huge, grey, virus-loaded cloud has been the many micro-businesses launched from kitchens across the land. Consumers' appetites, both literal and metaphorical, have been whetted by a surge of creative takes on old favourites, beautifully presented. The very best have resulted in sell-out orders and queues around the block as we look to comfort eat our way through lockdown.
Enter Aimée Soudry, founder of Saint Croissants, who has taken the classic breakfast pastry and loaded it with treats, covered it in dripping rainbow colours and sprinkled on a little bit of magic. The 'Saint' croissant is perfect for lockdown - unapologetically over-the-top, nutritionally unsound and an instant hit.
We've been chatting about producing a 'Cronut' burger with one of the city's best burger spots
To say she is busy is an understatement. Aimée was already running a PR agency, helping her husband run a gym and being a mum to her little girl. This would be quite enough to fill lockdown for most people, but Aimee had other plans. Baking and decorating her croissants and cronuts in her kitchen, she quickly tackled all other facets of the business too. For many businesses run by just one person, it can be hard to get on top of the marketing and administration aspects of it all, but Aimee's background working in PR meant she knew she had to get those aspects right from the start. Saint even has a covetable line of croissant-inspired merch, including aprons, sweatshirts and enamel pin badges.
We couldn't think of anyone better to catch up with just ahead of Mother's Day, as Aimée took a few minutes out of preparing her gorgeous Mother's Day boxes (just check out that sunflower cronut) to give us the lowdown on being a lockdown hit.
You set up Saint Croissants during lockdown - what was the inspiration behind that?
"I have worked with plenty of small Manchester food businesses and it seemed to me, after about six weeks into lockdown, that they were all really thriving. Food delivery was one thing people could enjoy during lockdown and I immediately decided I wanted to create something that was new. Something that people would be able to treat themselves, a friend or family to during these horrible times. My original idea was actually another loaded product (which we may launch in the future) but I couldn't get the shelf life required on it. So instead I looked inwards and thought about French patisserie and how versatile the croissant is. My husband is from Marseille and the croissant is a staple there but it's always plain. I basically wanted to 'pimp the croissant' but in an elegant and Instagrammable way. Baking is something I have always loved to do but haven't really had the time for since running my own business and becoming a mum. With lots of newfound time on my hands during lockdown, it's something I turned to to be creative and give my mind something to focus on. I've taught myself loads of new skills through practice and YouTube!"
You already had a lot of strings to your bow, how has it been adding another project to the mix?
"It's been a real juggling act - mainly because I never expected Saint to take off in the way that it has. I do throw myself into things 100% and Saint hasn't been any different but it really is gaining a life of its own. It has been really difficult at times, especially balancing it with family life and bringing up our toddler too. But I'm really proud to be a working mum and want my little girl to understand that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to. She's a cronut fanatic now and it really makes me smile when she comes home from nursery and says, 'Wow Mummy, I love your croissants!' I'm happy (and relieved) to have another pastry chef in the kitchen with me now, which will enable me to get some work/life balance back."
What has been the most challenging aspect of launching a business during lockdown? And what's been the unexpected benefit?
"I would say having to work from home - my kitchen has been well and truly taken over with cardboard boxes, piping bags and chocolate bars. But we're really excited to be moving to commercial premises later this month. The benefits have been actually having something to keep my brain busy. I do suffer with anxiety, so I don't like to have too much time on my hands because then I start to think too much. It's been amazing to be able to have Saint to keep me busy."
Your products are so aesthetically impactful - how do you start building the look of them?
"It really does vary - there's no hard and fast rule for how I come up with these concoctions! Some of our menu is happy accidents - when I don't really plan for something to work but it does. Other times I think about the colours and ingredients in advance and visualise how I want it to look. I don't like to give myself any creative confinement - which is why I think our products are so unique and fun."
How did your collaboration with Tatton Perk at the weekend go? - any more collaborations on the cards?
"It went amazingly and hopefully this is the start of something ongoing with Mark's brilliant business. In terms of collaborations, it's all about time (and having enough of it!) but we hope to produce a limited-edition bake with Pollard Yard-based 'Loaf' this Spring, so keep your eyes peeled for that! And we've been chatting about producing a 'Cronut' burger with one of the city's best burger spots too."
What advice do you have for anyone taking on a big project like this?
"My best advice would be to believe in yourself and your idea, regardless of how bonkers or new it may be."
Finally, what does your ideal Mother's day look like?
"Oh, I'm really hoping for a lazy morning with breakfast in bed!"
The Mother's Day gift box has already been extremely popular. Another sure hit is the eggs and bacon loaded croissant Easter special (pictured above) which will be available to order soon.