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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

For S.F.-Based Petit Pot, the Proof is in the Pudding

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2014 at 7:48 AM

click to enlarge petitpotall4.jpg
While the world may not need another dessert, I think we can all agree that some of the best things in life are not necessities.

Petit Pot falls into the latter category. Founded by Frenchmen Maxime Pouvreau, Petit Pot boasts gourmet puddings in glinting glass jars that are as portable as they are palatable.

In fact they’re nothing short of decadent. Offering four deceptively simple flavors — chocolate, lemon curd, caramel and vanilla — the puddings are made with a keen eye on craft, using local ingredients whenever possible. Pouvreau sources his chocolate from Belgium (of course!) and his fleur de sel from Brittany, France.

Pouvreau explains that the jars, although undeniably trendy, are also “the most useful thing on earth.” He’s hoping that people will reuse them, happily re-appropriating the containers to “put plants and flowers in them, spices, jams and nails. We cannot put these puddings in a plastic cup. It’s not a yogurt, it’s a dessert!”

Pouvreau says he’s aiming to create a newfound diversity in a world glutted with cakes, cookies and pies; the readymade dessert offerings felt repetitive and paltry.

“We really want to improve the selection with something gourmet and affordable,” he explains. “Our plan is to offer French desserts with an American twist, merge the two cultures with smallest and finest amount of ingredients.”

click to enlarge Petit pot founder Maxime Pouvreau.
  • Petit pot founder Maxime Pouvreau.
Pouvreau, grew up in southwest France and says he has been keen to bake since he was a child, wending his way through French bakeries and pastry shops as an apprentice before moving to New Zealand at 18, followed by a stint in England working under chef Michael Caines at ABode. Then it was back to Paris a few years later where he worked alongside Alain Senderens and at the legendary Le Meurice.

“I have always baked,” says Pouvreau. “I have a photo of me pouring sugar into a mixer at age six. I wasn’t even tall enough to see inside the bowl.”

Pouvreau followed a girl to San Francisco about six years ago and became the assistant pastry chef at Coi; following the completion of an associate business degree at Berkeley Community College — because he wanted to “start his own shit” —  he launched Petit Pot this past summer.

Interestingly enough, Pouvreau, first started with “lunches in jars” when he realized that what people loved most and what was selling the fastest, was his puddings. So he banished the savory dishes and focused on churning out the sweets.

“I even had a line of desserts that were not just puddings — but what people loved most was the chocolate pot de creme. So I began pivoting the business towards what the customers wanted and ask for," he says. "Americans don’t like mousse, but do they love pudding."

Petit Pot is sold in just six locations across San Francisco and Star Grocery in Berkeley, but Pouvreau is gearing up for a big push in the coming months; he just took on a business partner, Pierre Coeurdeuil, who is helping him field “talks with big providers” and grow the business at an exponential — but sustainable — rate.

The duo met at a small business workshop this past June. Pouvreau was impressed by Pierre’s versatile background in food science, culinary arts, and renewable energy, and asked Pierre to play Settlers of Catan in order to determine his aptitude under pressure and view his decision-making skills.

"The game showed that he is a good strategist and that he likes to take calculated risks, so I brought him in. And now, I'm also happy have someone helping me carry around all those jars," he says.

Pierre and Pouvreau are currently weighing two options: either they raise money and build a small plant or — perhaps the more favorable of the two — they ask an underused plant to produce the pudding for them, sharing the equipment.

Petit Pot will not help your waistline or cure cancer but it will be one of the best things you’ve eaten in a long time. So raise your jar in salute of small, delicious victories. 
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Katie Tandy

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