Fréderic Vaucamps—born in France in 1963—began his apprenticeship as pastry chef at the age of 14. Fred–as he is affectionally called–is a self—made entrepreneur who developed his knowledge through practice, experimentation, successes, and also failures. In 1982, he and his brother opened a pastry shop that was a complete disappointment. But as often happens with great men, he was not discouraged and continued his personal and professional journey, which has turned him into a modern exponent of the very high standards of creativity and quality characteristic of French haute pâtisserie.
In 1985, Fred discovered in his book collection some confections that left him completely stunned and captivated: a lost recipe from northern France and Flanders for Merveilleux cakes that makes them softer and puffier and adds new flavors like chocolate, and hazelnuts, always using the traditional meringue and whipped cream.
These sweets had been part of France’s sophisticated pastry tradition since the late 18th century, at the time of the Directory, the period that followed the terror of the French Revolution. Under this new regime, high society regained its status. Famous women such as Madame Tallien and Madame Recamier opened their “salons” as meeting places for the nouvelle elegance: The Incroyables and Merveilleuses (The Incredibles and Wonderful).
The Incroyables were young gentlemen of effeminate manners, whose only concern was the pursuit of pleasure. Meanwhile, the ladies or Merveilleuses followed fashion norms hat scandalized all Paris, as they wore dresses made of silk and transparent chiffon that resembled the garb of ancient Greek and Roman women.
Vaucamps’ new take on traditional pastries such as the Incroyables and the Merveilleuses brings back their former glory with subtle improvements. The kramiek—a Flemish word for a small brioche bread filled with raisins—first appeared around 1830 in Wallonia and Flanders. In the hands of this sublime baker, these delicacies become ephemeral illusions or small works of art, enhanced with different flavors and a touch of fantasy.
Fifteen years after his initial failure, Fred opened his first store— Aux Merveilleux de Fred—in the French city of Lille, where he improved the recipe for Merveilleux with a meringue covered with whipped cream and dark chocolate chips that melt in the mouth.
His fame has since grown with unique creations of different Merveilleux, such as The Incroyable, The Impensable, The Magnificent, The Sans Cullote, and The Eccentric, as well as his delicious brioches, Les Cramiques with raisins, chocolate, and sugar.
These unique sweets masterfully combine ingredients as appetizing as merengue, handmade cookies, whipped cream, white chocolate, coffee cream, chocolate chips, almonds, hazelnuts, praline, caramel, crystallized cherry and many more.
Following the success of the original shop in Lille, Fred Vacucamps has expanded his cake empire to other cities around the world, including Knokke, Paris, London, Berlin, New York, plus several locations in France, where he makes his legendary sweets in front of the customers, offering an unforgettable and delightful experience. ■