Welcome to the Spinoff Auckland serial The Bakers’ Tale, Brian Ng’s story of a couple of guys and a pastry-making business. Episode 2: The immigration glitch.
The day begins with the three requisite ingredients: flour, butter, sugar. And water. Mix them together and you can make a shortcrust pastry for a tart case, a sponge for an opera cake, puff pastry for a mille feuille. It all sounds so simple.
The Little French Pastry operation churns out hundreds of each every day, to the point where watching Ben Chevre pipe crème patissiere and ganache might start to feel like watching a YouTube video of a machine doing the same job. Except Ben adds a little flourish at the end of each squirt.
It’s all about love.
The dream has always been to get their own shop: market stalls and wholesale orders are steps on the way. The dream has always been to have a space they have complete control over. Not in France, but in New Zealand.
Ben first fell in love with this country on a visit seven years ago. In France, he’d worked in a chateau with a woman who owned a café in the Coromandel, so when he came out here he went to work for her in the café, and got his residency. He’s currently in the process of becoming a permanent resident, but as is the Ben custom way of doing anything not involving food, he’s moving on it millimetre by millimetre.
Unfortunately, immigration is a problem for Matthieu Betron. The jobs he can do (chef, baker and sales manager) are all on various skill shortage lists. But the week the first instalment of this series came out, he discovered his application for a skilled labour migrant visa had been rejected. The immigration officer did not think they had enough financial proof the business would be able to support as an employee.
So what’s in store for the duo now? Matthieu can’t work or even technically volunteer his time, because he’s on a tourist visa. That visa buys him three more months in the country while he tries to find an employer who can keep him here, or he tries again through Little French Pastry. The law will change in August and the government has just revised the new salary threshold for skilled migrant labour, but it’s still unclear what chance he will have.
Little French Pastry itself is bounding from one achievement to the next and is more busy now than ever. When they were made Farro’s Producer of the Month, the business employed a few people to be in stores to showcase the pastries (so much for it not having the capacity to pay Ben).
The General Collective market is coming up on 13 August, and Le French Festival on 26 August, and the bakers are perfecting flavours for the several hundred extra bonnes bouches the events will require. As the business grows, the undertows of immigration threaten its foundations. What is Little French Pastry with only half the Frenchness?
To be continued. Click here for the previous episode of The Baker’s Tale.
The Spinoff Auckland is sponsored by Heart of the City, the business association dedicated to the growth of downtown Auckland as a vibrant centre for entertainment, retail, hospitality and business.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.