The Dunnes Stores Simply Better collection has a well-deserved reputation for award-winning food and drink. Behind the scenes it also champions small Irish producers, helping them to grow while doing what they do best.
This month we caught up with Robert Bullock of Le Patissier about transforming his business in the wake of Covid-19 and the importance of working with good Irish producers.
A pastry chef by trade, Robert Bullock came to Ireland from England in 2002 to run catering for an airline. Eleven years later he was headhunted by another company but when that didn’t work out fate, and Robert’s mum, stepped in. In 2013, while having dinner with his visiting parents in a Co Dublin restaurant, his mum mentioned to staff that Robert was a great pastry chef. The chef challenged him to come up with a pastry range for the restaurant, so Robert did exactly that and Le Patissier was born.
At first Robert ran the business from his kitchen table, supplying coffee shops and local restaurants. When a large deal with a hotel came through, it prompted him to move a shared kitchen and the business grew organically from there. Everything is handmade with quality ingredients. “We use Irish ingredients wherever possible,” Robert explains. “All my dairy is Irish. My eggs are free-range and my cream cheese is from Haye’s Farm in Tipperary. Everything we do is premium. Like everything, you get out what you put in.”
In 2014 Le Patissier entered a number of desserts into the Blas na hÉireann food awards. They picked up gold and silver awards and caught the attention of the Dunnes Stores Simply Better team. In early 2015 Robert received an invitation for a meeting in the Simply Better offices. “And the rest is history,” he laughs.
Aside from supplying Dunnes Stores, Le Patissier itself had been very successful until Covid-19 hit. Almost immediately the bottom fell out of the business but having an ongoing deal with Simply Better was a lifeline. “That kept me in the kitchen,” Robert says. “And with the help of my family, we were able to keep supplying Dunnes.” At the same time, Robert posted images of some desserts on social media and people got in touch, asking to buy them. He added an e-commerce section to his website and launched a home delivery service. “We had around 200 deliveries a day,” Robert says. “Between that and supplying Dunnes Stores we ended up bringing all the staff back.”
While they only deliver to Co Dublin, Robert directs customers to Dunnes Stores branches around the country, where they can pick up Le Patissier’s handmade treats in-store. They now supply ten products in the Simply Better range; four mousses, four tarts and two flavours of profiteroles. “My own favourite is the pannacotta, made with strawberries from Pat Clarke in Co Meath, which are so good!” Robert says, adding, “The mango mousse is our biggest seller in the mousse range - and we do a large bowl for Christmas.”
It was undoubtedly a huge support this year but for Robert, his relationship with Simply Better has been rewarding since the beginning. “We work closely with the team and have gone from strength to strength together,” he explains. “It works and the team is so good – that’s why they have so many great producers on their books.
Find out more about Le Patissier here.
Brought to you in partnership with the Dunnes Stores Simply Better Collection.