France has many regional food specialties but the crepe is a traditional specialty food that is found almost everywhere. It is so popular and highly regarded as a food style there is a school in France dedicated to training crepe chefs (crepieres). Greg is a master crepiere and worked in different creperies for two years in different parts of France before expanding his horizons and working in sport, tourism and hospitality management too.
Mylene on the other hand started a seven-year course at catering school in France when she was 15, and learned everything about the restaurant and hospitality industry, from service to business management, finance and cooking, all essential skills to have when you want to own a restaurant.
Even though both are French, Mylene and Greg met in London and made friends with some New Zealanders who were working there. These Kiwis were always talking about how beautiful New Zealand is. The Auphins knew that while their future was going to be in food it wasn’t going to be in France – they wanted to take French cuisine to another part of the world, so on the recommendation of their Kiwi friends they decided to have an extended working holiday in New Zealand.
They travelled extensively around this country for several months until they arrived in Nelson, as soon as they got here they knew in their hearts this is where they wanted to make their new home. Five months working in Nelson only made them more certain and they knew they could add something to the Nelson restaurant scene; they started putting everything in place, they talked to the council and started looking for a small premises in the city that had plenty of character.
At the end of their working holiday they returned to France where they put together a business plan, arranged long-term business visas and kept looking on Nelson websites for the right premises. One day up popped a small restaurant on Hardy St. The former Zippy’s premises was the perfect size and location to establish a small creperie so they signed a lease and moved their lives to Nelson where they opened La Gourmandise on February 14, 2011.
As Mylene says, “We wanted to start small to see if it would work and it did. We also realised there was a strong demand in Nelson for gluten-free food and crepes are gluten-free, so almost by accident we found a small niche and the business grew quite quickly.”
La Gourmandise soon found a strong following from local French speaking people. “People say it is nice because it is like being at home.” Mylene and Greg said they “wanted people to feel like they had been invited to our home and we would cook for them. We loved having people for dinner at home in France and wanted to do it on a slightly larger scale in a restaurant.”
They also found people wanted other styles of food too and they always intended to make more than crepes. It was just a starting point for them, but if they wanted to open in the evenings and have other food options they would need a liquor licence so it was back to council to start that process. Then in 2013 they expanded into the vacant shop next door, and the small shop on Hardy St isn’t so small anymore.
After three years living in Nelson they became New Zealand residents and in January this year their son Jeremie was born, “probably not the best timing for a restaurant in Nelson but you can’t always plan these things” says Greg.
Because they both have different but important roles in the business they share the care of Jeremie. When Greg is busy cooking, Mylene is at home and when Mylene is dealing with managing the business Greg is at home. Jeremie gets passed from one parent to the other at the restaurant when they ‘change shifts’ and their son has become a popular attraction himself. A happy, laughing baby being handed from one regular diner to another on a Saturday morning is a common occurrence.
Any successful restaurant owner will tell you that having great food is only part of the success equation, you need to have sound business skills as well. The combined skills and delightful personality the Auphins bring to La Gourmandise has ensured they are firmly established as part of Nelson’s thriving Hardy St restaurant quarter, serving up classic French treats along with a range of New Zealand and French wines, beers and ciders.