It’s a macarons success story. Not much more than a year after arriving in Ottawa from their hometown of Caracas, Venezuela, husband-and-wife team David Seba and Julia Dahdah had opened their first pastry shop in September 2015 on Montreal Road in Vanier. Eighteen months later, with business brisk, they have launched a second Quelque Chose Pâtisserie in the heart of Westboro.
City Bites Insider toured the pretty pink and blue macarons boutique and coffee shop with Seba and checked out the soon-to-open rooftop patio.
Why open a second shop in Westboro?
We get a lot of customers at our Vanier shop who live in the neighbourhood, but also people coming from all over the city. Every day we would have west-end customers tell us how much they loved our macarons, but it was so far to come. When an opportunity came up in the west end, we thought “Let’s go for it.”
Where do you bake your macarons?
We have a very big kitchen in our Vanier location so we bake everything there and deliver the macarons and pastries to Westboro each day.
You run the store with your wife, Julia. Are you both pastry chefs?
Julia is the pastry chef. She studied in Paris, then trained under Pierre Hermé, who is one of the most famous pastry chefs in France. I’m actually a mechanical engineer, but I love pastries and baking, so I also studied as a pastry chef. But we’re opposites — Julia loves to spend every day in the kitchen and I love to bake, but I don’t want to be there all the time. I do more of the business.
You’re both from Venezuela. How did you end up in Ottawa?
I have family in Canada and fell in love with it on my very first visit. I love snow! I kept telling Julia we should move to Canada and we finally did.
Did you open Quelque Chose Pâtisserie in Vanier right away?
No. We started off by renting kitchen space from the owner of another bakery and making macarons for embassy events and other types of parties. Soon we were so busy that we needed to have our own kitchen, and within a year we opened in Vanier. It was a lot of work, but worth it!
Tell me about your new store here in Westboro. I love the pink and blue.
We do, too. We love the pink, but thought maybe it would be too pink if it was all one colour, so the blue balances that out. But I think the pink makes us really stand out — you look through the windows and see this fun coffee shop and the counter with all the colours of the macarons.
It must be a fun place to work.
Of course. Everyone’s happy when they’re coming in for coffee and a macaron.
You have close to two dozen flavours of macarons. What’s most popular?
The top five sellers are salted caramel, nutella, pistachio, raspberry-chocolate, and brownie. We’re always sold out of salted caramel — we bake and bake and bake and they disappear.
What are your favourites?
My top five would be passionfruit-chocolate, cinnamon-coconut, dulce de leche and puffed quinoa; pistachio, and salted caramel.
Her favourite is olive oil, which is a very popular flavour in France but doesn’t sell in Canada.
How many macarons do you bake each day?
We have 18 regular flavours and six that change. We bake about 1,000 a day.
Is there an art to it? It’s not something I’ve ever tried at home.
Definitely. There are two parts — the shell and the filling. The shell is made with ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar. It seems simple but it’s a very delicate process to get them just right — everything has to be perfect. We have to make changes based on the temperature and the humidity. The centre is either a ganache or a butter cream depending on the flavour of the macaron.
Do you have anything special lined up for Easter?
We’re making beautiful bunny macarons with ears and faces. We also have an Easter collection of flavours in Easter colours. We make Easter chocolates, as well.
It’s hard to picture being on a patio anytime soon, but you’re lucky enough to have one.
We are. There are stairs at the back of the shop that go up to a terrace that looks over Richmond Road and across to MEC. We’ll have umbrellas in the summer and people can take their coffee and dessert up to the roof and enjoy it outside. I’m really looking forward to summer!