Yorkshire's 'French' bakery for sale after making wonderful creations for 30 years

For over 30 years Trevor Backhouse has enchanted customers, and those passing by his Otley shop, with his sweet treats. Sally Clifford meets him as he prepares to hang up his apron.

he ‘Theatre of Confections’ offers a window into a mouth-watering world. Ornate and bespoke confectionery and chocolate creations are not only a sight to behold but a pleasure to the palate. Within Patisserie Viennoise, a befitting name for the characteristic Victorian property on Otley’s Main Street, Trevor Backhouse and his team have been creating sweet treats for more than 30 years.

Christened after the French enterprise where Trevor served his apprenticeship, over the decades this landmark business has hosted The Hairy Bikers and created occasion cakes for TV and celebrity weddings.

Many more loyal customers and clients have enjoyed Patisserie Viennoise’s delicacies, but

Baker and chocolatier Trevor Backhouse outside Patisserie Viennoise, in Westgate, Otley

now, sadly comes the end of an era for Trevor as he has decided the time has finally come for him to hang up his apron.

It is half a century since he initially stepped foot into the village bakery as a Saturday boy to hone the skills he would put to purpose in his own business. “From the moment I stepped into the village bakery where I used to live, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” recalls Trevor.

After eight years honing his skills there, and passing his exams at college, Trevor decided to expand his knowledge through continental experience. His application for jobs abroad led to him joining Patisserie Viennoise – the French bakery which would not only inspire him and develop his knowledge and flair for food but would also, in later years, enable him to bring that familiar name home and place it proudly above the bakery business he set up in the West Yorkshire market town 36 years ago.

Trevor’s time on the continent not only shaped his career it also developed his interest in the culinary world. He discovered he had a flair with food at a time when he felt he had failed academically at everything else. “I was useless at school and I couldn’t do anything else. I left without a single qualification, but making food was something I could do and I knew I could do it well,” he says.

baker and chocolatier Trevor Backhouse outside Patisserie Viennoise, in Westgate, Otley

He was never shy of hard work either – which stood him in good stead for what lay ahead. “When I was younger I used to start at ridiculous hours – our start time was 3am. We finished when all the work was finished in the evening. If you were shy of hard work, it was the wrong place, but I have never been shy of hard work.”

Trevor was 24 when he joined Patisserie Viennoise and 28 when he came home to Yorkshire. “France is renowned for its food and I wanted to learn from the best. That is why I moved to France, to learn a new language, meet new friends, try new food.

“Everything is 100 per cent change and while you are young you can do that. I would encourage youngsters to move out of their comfort zone – that is what I did and it was great.

“Patisserie Viennoise was where I worked in France and my boss’s mum was Austrian,” says Trevor, who recalls creating Austrian-inspired confectionery while working there.

Trevor working alongside staff member Emma White, who has been part of the Patisserie Viennoise team for over 20 years

He was delighted when, in later years, his boss agreed for him to use the name when he eventually set up his own business. Initially he and his former business partner, Carol, with whom he remains good friends, set up in a unit in Otley. When the current building came up for sale, Trevor seized the opportunity and moved to where it has traded for 36 years.

“When I bought this place with the extra window for people to watch us work it was a no- brainer to call it the “Theatre of Confections”. With all the food programmes on at the moment, it’s obvious people like to see food being made.”

Customers stepping into this traditional shop will find wooden shelves brimming with delightful delicacies.

Coffee eclairs filled with coffee and cream and topped off with a coffee crème patisserie, Black Forest gateau, lime cheesecake and fresh fruit tarts are among the irresistible offerings, along with chocolates filled with flavours including alcohol-based truffles, almonds, brazils, walnuts, toffee, praline ginger and marzipan.

Trevor putting the finishing touches to a gateau

“There are 14 varieties of cakes on display at the moment. We specialise in something different,” says Trevor. “When we first started the business we didn’t want to make anything you could buy anywhere else. We moved away from jam tarts and doughnuts, and over the years we have gained a huge repertoire of different things.

“It is the customers who come to our shop and inspire us. If they can’t see something we make it – everything is possible. We are always changing and evolving.”

One of the main changes that Trevor has seen over the years is the types of wedding cakes they produce.

“Wedding cakes, for instance, 36 years ago a lot had flowers made from icing and were very intricately decorated. Then we had the chocolate revolution where everybody was wanting a chocolate wedding cake which was easy because we made chocolate cakes, but the change was the naked wedding cake. That is basically no icing on the cake, they are sponge cakes that have evolved,” he says.

Trevor explains that another popular wedding cake is described as semi-naked as it features a fine skim of icing and is decorated with flowers and fruits. He estimates that he and his team create, on average, 200 wedding cakes per year – equating to many thousands since the business opened its doors.

Over the years they have created celebration cakes for celebrities and TV shows. One of their confectionary centrepieces was for a wedding cake slinging scene in ITV’s Yorkshire-based soap, Emmerdale.

Trevor Backhouse outside Patisserie Viennoise

“They wanted a five-tier wedding cake, but the top tier had to be very soft so it had to be filled with fresh cream so it wouldn’t hurt anybody,” recalls Trevor.

Another memorable assignment was playing host to The Hairy Bikers, Si King and Dave Myers, when they popped in to help Trevor and his team during a baking series. “They were smashing, really nice blokes. They helped out making a selection of wedding cakes and they were really, really nice guys,” he says.

The seasonal aspect of the business keeps Trevor and his team constantly busy. “We do hundreds of Easter eggs and at Christmas lots and lots of Father Christmases in different styles, reindeer and snowmen – these are our busiest times of year.

“Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, there is always a season going on from the beginning of the year, then you have got the wedding season. It is 12 months, we are never quiet.

“But I have good staff – I have always had good staff and that is the key to it. It is a good business, but the secret to a good business is getting the right people working for you.”

Having turned 65, Trevor feels it is now the right time to bow out and let someone else take on the baton. The property is currently on the market. Trevor hopes the business will continue and bring as much pleasure and satisfaction to the new owner as it has given him over the years.

“I feel it is the right time to retire,” says Trevor, who is looking forward to the next chapter. “Hopefully I can rest and enjoy all the other good things in life,”

“I have always strived to give the customer something special and I shall miss that, but all good things must come to an end. It hasn’t really been a business, it’s just been a very expensive hobby!”