Michelin-experienced pastry chef brings ‘sweet treats’ to Romford Market
- Credit: Complete Ltd
Watching her grandad make choux pastry as a little girl sparked Courtney Gwatkin’s fascination with pastry making, and at 30 years old she is fulfilling her dreams in Romford Market.
Thanks to Romford Business Improvement District’s (BID) Pitch for a Pitch competition, which Courtney entered and won – she was given a stall for six months.
Named Courtney’s Cakes, the stall opened on April 17. Before this, Courtney made cakes in her own home for delivery and postal orders, and over Christmas she sold just under 1,000 “chocolate bombs”.
Courtney’s culinary journey began at Westminster Kingsway College, where she studied for three years before graduating and going into events catering.
At 24 years old Courtney was working as a pastry chef at Michelin restaurant Yauatcha.
The Yauatcha patisserie offering includes “macarons, petits gateaux, chocolates and gateaux” all taking inspiration from “Chinese heritage and ingredients”.
Courtney said: “I enjoyed my time at Yauatcha and it was the biggest pastry teams I have worked in to this day. There were around 15 of us and usually you would only get two or three pastry chefs, if you’re lucky.”
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Having spent her childhood cooking with her grandad, Courtney’s dream is to eventually own her own “cakery”, with the stall acting as a first step.
“I wanted to do the cake stall because it allows me to branch out to different clientele and connect with the locals. I love the personal touch that I can offer in Romford Market. I can talk directly to my customers and get instant feedback.
“There is nothing better than having a customer buy a cake and try it in front of you and say ‘that was amazing’. It’s heart-warming, especially after spending so much time in restaurants where you aren’t customer-facing and hear no feedback.”
Courtney’s Cakes is open in Romford Market from 9am to 5pm on Saturday and 9am to 4pm on Sundays. During the weekdays, Courtney works as a head pastry chef in a flagship contract catering site in Canary Wharf.
After BID’s support ceases, Courtney aims to continue her stall: “Romford market is where I live and I grew up coming here every weekend with my family. I walk through it every day so for me it was a perfect match being able to have a stall here.
“I want to help the local area and have local customers. It’s not only a friendly place but it is so close to the city of London and has loads of potential."
Working seven days a week is welcomed by Courtney, who had been furloughed for 13 months over lockdown.
“I went from an industry where I work anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day to not working at all, which was a culture shock and I found myself a bit lost.”
However, the period of furlough inspired Courtney to open up Courtney’s Cakes, which began in her home.
Best-selling sweet treats include the Biscoff rocky road, which is an American fridge cake made with marshmallows and Biscoff biscuits in a white chocolate ganache; and the red velvet cookie sandwich, made with two red velvet white chocolate chip cookies that are sandwiched together with a cream cheese butter cream.
Striving to make sure her business is eco-friendly, Courtney does all she can to reduce waste.
“I am passionate about my packaging and food waste being eco-friendly. I donate all leftover cakes to a homeless charity and in the future, I dream to own premises in Romford where I can also hold educational classes, not just around pastries and desserts but also basic cooking and life skills such as budgeting and planning a recipe," said Courtney.
The pastry chef of 14 years is still as in love with her job as she was when she first started out, she said: “What I really like about pastry is that everything is so creative. I love using berries and chocolate and think it’s one of the best jobs in the world, being able to play with these ingredients to make beautiful creations.”