A CONVERSATION WITH OLIVIER SÉBASTIEN CHAN CHAN

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By Derek Green

I’ve just bitten into the best cinnamon scroll I’ve ever tasted. I do that double-take thing at my wife who just smiles back with a knowing look.

“What tha…? Where did you get these from?”

I rattle off a few well-known local purveyors of all things sweet and wonderful, and to each she just shakes her head, “nope.”

“It’s from a new place in Yarraville; Motte”, she says.

Never heard of them,” I reply.

I look up the address ­– it’s somewhere near the corner of Francis Street and Williamstown road. As a proud inner-westie who feels like he’s wandered the length of every street, explored all the ‘villages’ and glanced in every shop window, it’s still not clicking. I decide then and there that The Westsider needs to talk to whoever is responsible! A quick bit of research later and I find out that it’s a new bakery run by a passionate Reunion Island ex-pat Oliver Chan Chan.

We’re in lockdown of course, so a series of chats, emails and bakery orders later, I now feel fully informed (and full!)

What was life like growing up in Reunion?

It was like living in a bubble, because it is so far away from everything, every country outside seemed so exotic, even France which we are part of, we share the language, the food, some of the culture but it still seemed so foreign. Reunion was a beautiful place to grow up, there is such a diversity of cultures. I had friends from all different religions and we all got along, every cultural event would be celebrated by everyone, Diwali, Ramadan, the New Lunar year, Christmas, you name it.

When did you come to Australia?

I moved to Australia after I finished high school, back in 2004. My main reason for moving was to learn English and study. I was also very curious about the land ‘down-under’, it was a place I always wanted to discover.

Your brother went to France – you never wanted to go there?

It was a hard decision to make, all my friends were going there after high school but part of me wanted to do something different, it was the best way to learn English and close-ish
to home.

There are pastry chefs in your family’s past, and you became an accountant. How did that happen?

My grandfather was a baker and so was my father (he is retired now but still bakes from time to time for the family). One of the reasons I decided to become an accountant was because my dad’s accountant didn’t do a good job and caused him to lose his business. I felt like I needed to understand what had happened and I wanted to be equipped so this would not ever happen again.

And then a quiet revolution occurred in the life of Ollie ­– what inspired you to make the change?

I needed a change, I was not happy. I have always loved cooking, being in the kitchen, it is place where things flow and come naturally to me. I went through depression last year and this was one of the things that helped me escape and saved me I would say.

How long has the business been running?

Not for long. I started working on the admin side of things late last year, and then took a break when I wasn’t going so well. I took a job in a cafe then when I felt better I got back onto it, and things slowly picked up.

You work from home currently as a home-based business – do you have any plans to expand into a commercial kitchen?

This is definitely something I am planning on doing, either a little warehouse or a shopfront, but I will decide on this when we are out of isolation.

Do you produce all those baked goods on your own or do you have help?

I do everything myself, it takes a lot of effort but I love it so much.

Where did the name ‘Motte’ come from?

Motte is word often used to describe a pile of butter “motte de beurre”, since I use a lot of it I thought it would be perfect!

We’ve always heard the rumours but maybe you can confirm – what time does a baker actually need to wake up?

On average I am up by 7am but on the weekends it happens that I am up by 3am, sometimes until 11pm at night to prepare everything but I enjoy it, I want everything to be perfect for my customers.

You are also a yoga instructor – does your practice help you stay calm in a busy kitchen?

I don’t get to practice as much as I like however I still get to meditate from time to time, especially when I get up early and everyone is still asleep, I get the space to myself. I thank my body and my mind for giving me the energy and the will to keep doing this, it is such a beautiful ritual. I also jog a lot, whenever I can, all around Yarraville, it allows me to zone out and clear my mind for a moment.

Inner-westies know their baked goods – how would you best describe the influence of your recipes?

I watch a lot of videos online and read lots of food magazines, I like to see what’s trending but also what I would like to eat! I also brainstorm a lot with my dad, it is a great way to connect with him and I get to spend some time on the phone with my parents who still live on Reunion.

What other delicious plans do you have for us?

I’ve got so many ideas but I need to focus on the products I do best. I would like to work more with seasonal ingredients, using what’s best and available, as well as support local grocers and farmers. I would also like to introduce some Reunion Island sweets but I might have to adapt them to Australian palates!

Motte is at 16 Dean Street, Yarraville. Order first and pickup from
Thursday 11:00 am via 0433 282 745
or online at motte.com.au

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