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Paris-Brest eclairs, Autumn Leaf chocolate meringue gateau, Opera layer cake and Macarons on one side; Puff Pastry Flan, Pâté in a Pastry Shell and Salmon Coulibiac on the other... In the Lenôtre shop at the Parly 2 shopping centre, classic creations of French patisserie sit alongside the iconic creations of Gaston Lenôtre

It was still early in the morning of Tuesday 30 January 2018 when the students from the MSc in International Project Development at NEOMA BS entered the shop which, unusually, houses a cookery school for amateurs alongside its wide range of products. Immediately smiles lit up the tired faces of those who had had to travel for two hours to reach Paris.

More about the M. Sc. in International Project Development

The students had been looking forward impatiently to this opportunity to get to know Maison Lenôtre, the business established in1957 by Gaston Lenôtre from Normandy, which runs a programme of events as well as producing its renowned patisseries. As part of their training, they were to have the opportunity to look behind the scenes of this true French institution, from the shop at Parly 2 to the private rooms of the Stade de France.

Sustainable development as a case study

With Anne-Sophie Courtier, their lecturer and the Head of the MSc, the students are working on a ‘business case study’. The group of 26 students, including several international students, have three months to respond to three challenges raised directly by Maison Lenôtre. Their results will be used as the basis for work in the business, which is keen to develop its brand image along sustainable development lines.

“Divided into four teams, the students organised themselves and developed a reverse schedule to produce their reports on time,” explains Anne-Sophie Courtier. “Being able to organise themselves is an essential part of their training.”

The event had several objectives: “This is the first real contact with Lenôtre,” says Anne-Sophie. “This day allows the students to find out about the retail aspect of the brand on the one hand, and the catering aspect on the other hand. It gives them the chance to put their knowledge into practice by working for a real business, with high expectations.”

“It brings tears to my eyes”

In the Lenôtre shop’s kitchens, the students met the pastry chef, busy with one of his creations. Holding a piping bag, the expert was filling his Paris-Brest eclairs one by one. “The level of precision and the standards demanded by the Company are extremely high,” explains Delphine Gueguen, former student of NEOMA BS and now Financial and Administrative Director at Lenôtre.

Once back at the shop, temptation proved too strong for Youssef who could not resist buying himself one of the famous Paris-Brest eclairs. The patisserie is as complex and finely worked as it is light and delicate. As he tasted it he was immediately enraptured. “It brings tears to my eyes!”, he exclaimed.

Chefs who hold the prestigious award of Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best Craftsmen of France), fresh, quality products, work done 100% by hand and an incredibly high level of requirements... “Lenôtre is all that”, was the general opinion in the shop.

Understanding company expectations

From the kitchen to the workshops to the point of sale, the students gradually got to know the history of the brand, the anecdotes behind each creation and the philosophy of a business now seeking to renew its success.
The visit then continued at the Stade de France, firstly in the Panoramique restaurant then in the green rooms and various reception areas. “This is an incredible opportunity to get to know this place in this way”, whispered Amy.

What with tastings and talks, the group immersed themselves in the spirit of Lenôtre and learned some more about the company’s expectations. By April the students will present their recommendations to representatives of the brand. Marketing, communication, purchasing... the best ideas will be taken on board and developed.

“This is a full-scale win-win project,” says Anne-Sophie. “For the students, of course, as they can work on a real-life case but also for the business, as the feedback from the group can prove very useful.”

All in all, this is a great opportunity to set foot in the world of business! And once this case study is finished, the students will be heading to Rotterdam, for another business case study, this time on the theme of Smart Cities.