Times Colonist

Saturday, May 24, 2008

D’Arcy Ladret, who supplies several local restaurants with desserts and cakes, shows off some of his baking including chocolate cupcakes with rosewater, butter cream icing and a wedding cakes with handmade sugar flowers.
CREDIT: Debra Brash, Times Colonist
D’Arcy Ladret, who supplies several local restaurants with desserts and cakes, shows off some of his baking including chocolate cupcakes with rosewater, butter cream icing and a wedding cakes with handmade sugar flowers.

His look is more Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols than culinary star Wolfgang Puck, but while D’Arcy Ladret bears a vague resemblance to the late bassist from the legendary punk band, his dreams and talents align much more closely with those of the kitchen guru.

Like Vicious, Ladret is tall, thin and plays bass — but unlike Vicious, Ladret can actually play and is on stage at least twice a week playing with one of three local bands. His heart, however, is definitely in the kitchen.

Following that call, Ladret opened Sugarboy Bakery, his first solo food endeavour. Since November, he’s been supplying restaurants like the Mint, Pig BBQ Joint and Le Café Chocolat with desserts and cakes from his tiny 300-square-foot kitchen.

For a guy who hits the stage regularly, Ladret is modest and quiet.

“I got into cooking to back up the fact I was a musician and would probably never make any money with that,” he joked during a chat at Le Café Chocolat, the Saanich eatery that sits above his commercial kitchen.

The truth is, however, he might not have had a choice.

He got hooked when he started washing dishes at Sooke Harbour House as a 15-year-old. There he was introduced to the complexity of food, nuances he’d never noticed and pairings he would never have considered.

“The flavour combinations just blew me away,” he said. He soon realized that until then he hadn’t been eating “real food,” he said.

He also got to know Peter Zambri, then one of the restaurant’s key chefs and now chef-owner of Zambri’s in Victoria.

“He introduced me to so much about food, what it means and not just the flavour combinations,” he said.

“He showed me how it can change your life, you know, kind of like you are what you eat.” That philosophy, which is currently driving the slow-food movement and the emphasis on fresh, local and organic food, was drummed into Ladret’s head. It is the cornerstone on which his bakery is built.

“I go back to what I learned at Harbour House. I don’t cut corners anywhere, I use real everything and try to get as much stuff locally as I can,” he said.

For instance, right now he won’t make anything with strawberries or raspberries because they are not ready yet on the Peninsula.

“To me it’s great to see the cooking world going that way, because it’s been so ingrained in me,” he said.

That was the idea, according to Sooke Harbour House owner Sinclair Philip, who remembers Ladret as an easygoing, upbeat kid who was highly creative and enjoyed working with a team that loved to experiment.

“It is a good, conducive environment for experimentation and working with high-quality ingredients, where they have a lot of autonomy to develop,” he said. “And [Ladret] did some very creative and interesting things.” One of them remains in the restaurant’s arsenal of unique dishes.

“We serve a lot of edible flowers, and one of the first things he came up with on his own was making a sorbet with day lilies and we still use that,” he said.

Zambri, who counts Ladret as a good friend, says when they first met the young man was “just a big, lanky, interested kid.” “I don’t think he knew much about food before he knew us, but when he realized the energy there was in a kitchen I think that attracted him,” he said.

Indeed, from washing the dishes and slowly learning bits and pieces, Ladret would go on to take the cooking course at Camosun College before apprenticing at Sooke Harbour House.

He worked as pastry chef in Whistler at the Bearfoot Bistro before leaving for Lucques in Los Angeles.

After four years in California, he returned home and went back to Sooke Harbour House before heading out on his own.

Zambri says Ladret’s experience and education has provided a solid base from which he will grow.

“He’s gone from being a dishwasher to where he is right now. I can’t take credit for anything he’s done other than providing a bit of a spark,” he said.

“He saw our attention to detail, our passion and he was looking for somewhere to put his passions.” “Now he’s starting to get his grounding, he has a great foundation and it’s now about experimentation,” Zambri said.

“It’s all about solidifying some good ideas and making them part of his repertoire and then carrying through.” Ladret’s focus on desserts, and in particular cakes for events, comes down to what he calls a knack for marrying science with creativity.

It’s also about being a little edgy.

“There’s a lot of old-fashioned cake-making going on out there — I like to think I cater to the more ‘out there,'” he said.

And he still loves incorporating interesting flavours and flowers in his work.

It probably helps smooth things over with his rock and roll soul as well.

– – –

Essential Ladret

Name: D’Arcy Ladret

Age: 31

Status: Single

Born: Beausejour, Man.

Raised: Sooke

Education: Camosun College, faculty of culinary arts

Sweet or savoury: Savoury

Favourite dessert: Crème brulée, vanilla-flavoured. “I don’t eat dessert — I’m around it all day — but I will order brulée to see how it’s executed.”

The name Sugarboy: “When I worked at Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler a French waiter who was kind of annoying started calling me Sugarboy and it kind of stuck.”

Favourite ingredient: Vanilla beans. “I can’t get enough. If there’s a woman walking by with vanilla perfume I go nuts.”

The bands he plays with: Southern Urge, Double Diamond (a Neil Diamond tribute band) and Fineas Gage

Fresh: Everything at Sugarboy is made to order; he asks for 48 hours’ notice. A menu is on the website http://www.sugarboybakery.ca


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