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August 6, 2018 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Rising to the Challenge

Maxine Schecter cuts a pretty impressive figure on paper. As a child, she was baking constantly at home, and had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Her mum wasn’t so convinced about the financial viability of that career path, and would continually try to convince Maxine every day on the way to school that she should become a pastry chef. It appears relentless parental pestering does sometimes pay off, as Maxine went to study cooking and pastry at Weltec, then managed to get into highly prestigious pastry school Ferrandi, in Paris’ 6th arrondissement. After that, she worked a few high-end pastry jobs in Paris, then moved to London and spent a while working in highly-Instagrammable and very pink Mayfair tea room/cocktail lounge Sketch, finally ending up at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck for a year.
This wasn’t all roses and peaches however, as she worked around 18-hour days and had no time whatsoever for a life outside of the kitchen. Fear was clearly a significant motivator in her time at The Fat Duck, as she would always be terrified that if she mucked up, and her work ended up on the plate of a Michelin inspector, she could be directly traceable as the person responsible for losing the restaurant one of its three Michelin stars.
Eventually, the toll of this lifestyle, and of constantly moving around London to try and find the cheapest flat, became too much for Maxine, and she moved back for a more settled life in Wellington. Pastry wasn’t quite done with her, however, as after an 8-course degustation meal Maxine made for her parents as a Christmas present, her dad was convinced she should open a restaurant. Lo and behold, as they were out driving the next day in Kilbirnie, Maxine spotted the perfect place to build her pastry empire from, and quickly secured the lease. She tiled the bench herself, got her art teacher to hand paint the logos, and patisserie Sugar Flour sprang into being.
This enterprise hasn’t been entirely rosy either, as Maxine has to get up at 3am on mornings they are open to make all the pastries, has to deal with a bunch of paperwork, and hardest of all, has to contend with managing staff at the age of 22. She’s aware that Sugar Flour isn’t a long-term plan for her, but for right now Maxine’s love of pastry outweighs these drawbacks.
Sometimes pastries come to Maxine in dreams, but mostly they’re built around a particular seasonal fruit that she wants to use. Her Frida Kahlo pastry, part of a series of five pastries she created in homage to women artists for Mother’s Day, was inspired by Frida’s love of oranges and flowers. So Maxine created an orange jelly and marmalade with an orange blossom mousse, and covered it in a light meringue and little orange blossom flowers. Clearly, not only does Maxine put a huge amount of love into the flavours of the pastries she makes, but her love of visual art means that they are also a feast for the eyes.
To wrap your peepers around some of her incredible pastries, and hear more about the incredible Maxine and her life thus far, keep one of those peepers on our Facebook page for Salient TV’s video on her dropping on Thursday. And, try your best to make it in to Sugar Flour, for what are surely some of the best pastries on offer in Wellington.
Sugar Flour can be found at 29 Coutts Street in Kilbirnie, 10am – 4pm Friday through Sunday. Keep an eye out for possible pastry classes popping up later on at the patisserie during the week, as well as a cookbook that is on the horizon for Maxine.


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