Alumni Bring the Secrets of Paris to Hardware Lane
ON the surface, La Belle Miette is a simple, colourful patisserie where Melburnians can take a break from shopping or work and step into a Parisian fantasy to indulge in handcrafted macarons of gourmet flavour and design.
However, what one may not realise is that it is the passion for philosophy, languages and cinema, which owners Maylynn Tsoi (BA 1998) and Hugh Morley (BA(Hons) 1995, JD 2005) both have, which has helped to build this tiny retreat on Hardware Lane.
When Maylynn started her studies at the University of Melbourne, she knew she was destined to be creative, what she wasn't sure about was in which field she should practise.
She first began creating French patisserie at a young age, but had never thought she would make it her career.
In 1998, Maylynn completed the Bachelor of Arts, with majors in English and Cinema Studies.
'Both Hugh and I loved studying our Arts degrees. The mode of thinking that you develop - in being able to assess things from different angles - has been incredibly useful in creating and developing our business,' she said.
Maylynn met Hugh in the final year of her degree. Hugh had already completed the Bachelor of Arts with majors in Philosophy and Chinese Language, and the Juris Doctor at the Melbourne Law School. He is a fluent speaker of French.
Prior to the opening of La Belle Miette, Hugh was working as a solicitor at a Melbourne law firm and weighing up a career change. The idea of returning to France (where he had lived as a teenager) to work on something with Maylynn seemed more glamourous than processing documents.
'We travelled together to France to learn from the masters through 'dessert research'. When we found something we loved and would like to try, I spoke to the chefs and patisserie owners and asked them questions about their methodologies,' he said.
Having knowledge of the French language, culture and philosophy, has not only helped them learn about some of the secret techniques and ingredients used in the finest Parisian patisseries, but has also aided them in building professional networks in Melbourne.
Their love of philosophy is front and centre in the name of the shop. One of the original names for La Belle Miette was 'Objet Petit a', a term from French philosopher Jacques Lacan which means an unattainable object of desire.
'The term was fitting for macarons as little objects of desire that can be frustratingly difficult to make,' said Maylynn.
It was also an indirect reference to filmmaker Luis Bunuel, director of Cet Obscur Objet de Desir, who Maylynn discovered while studying cinema at the University of Melbourne.
'Bunuel is a master of creating comedic obstacles for his protagonists. I spent much of my degree writing on the topic of desire in narrative and the way pleasure is enhanced through deferral. So I think it's fitting that I have chosen something for my career that persists to be challenging and difficult,' she said.
Ultimately they decided the name was a little obscure and the pronunciation would be difficult for a non-French speaker, so they agreed on 'La Belle Miette' which means 'the beautiful small thing'.
'If you come to the store, you may see an oil painting beside the counter. It is a portrait of Jean Belle-Miette, who is credited as the 'Inventor of the Small Patisserie' on the plaque. It's a tiny piece, maybe 12-inches high, which we believe to be a life-sized portrait,' said Maylynn.
As a small patisserie, the portrait is their dedication to this tiny, albeit fictional man.
Story by Christopher Strong.
La Belle Miette is located at 30 Hardware Lane in the Melbourne CBD.
For more news about University of Melbourne alumni, please visit Alumni in the News.
Image: Alumni Maylynn Tsoi and Hugh Morley have combined their love for cinema, languages and food in their patisserie 'La Belle Miette'.