Chloe Sabatier of Chez Chloe
makes exactly one thing: traditional French chocolate lava cakes.
Sabatier, a 23-year-old French transplant, moved to Detroit from Paris just six months ago after having spent some time here during the summer of 2012 visiting her boyfriend. During her first visit, she started testing out her Chez Chloe concept of traditional French chocolate lava cakes. She sold them at farmers markets in Birmingham and Royal Oak, and found that her American customers loved her lava cakes, and was also surprised to find that many people, upon hearing her French accent, felt an immediate affinity for her and wanted to share their own memories of trips to Paris with her. She loved the instant camaraderie she felt with her customers. By the middle of August she would have a huge line in front of her stand, but in September she had to return to Paris to finish her marketing and communications degree.
She moved back to Detroit in April and worked an internship for her degree program for several months. Sabatier got involved with the community of local food entrepreneurs at FoodLab and began working out of one of their partner commercial community kitchens. Chez Chloe officially launched Oct. 1, and you can find her Saturdays at Eastern Market as well as at various artisan market events. Local businesses Le Petit Zinc in Corktown and Great Lakes Coffee in Midtown also carry her lava cakes, and she delivers daily in Detroit.
Sabatier is astounded by the overwhelming response she has received after just two months of being open. She remarks that even on Saturdays that are freezing cold, she will still sell 130 cakes at Eastern Market. "Everything has been very, very fast," she says. "I came back six months ago and said, 'Okay I'm going to apply at Eastern Market,' and they approved me. Everything went so fast. Just being at Eastern Market you reach so many people. People kept calling me (to place orders) and I had no idea who they were."
We hear more and more stories about young entrepreneurs coming in from the coasts to start their startups in Detroit, but hearing about a person crossing an ocean to start a cake company is much less common. "Everyone is asking me 'Why Detroit?' Look, I started a business two months ago and everything's so crazy; between baking, packing cakes, delivering cakes, buying ingredients, and sleeping three hours a night, (I think to myself) wow, I'm going to need a baker and delivery person soon. I don't know how I'm going to do it alone. That's what I tell people (when they ask why) Detroit." Sabatier has found the local support she needs to sustain and grow her business, much faster than she even anticipated. She bakes her cakes fresh daily and delivers them in person, which appeals to the strong local artisan food movement that has gained a serious stronghold in Detroit.
Sabatier has always loved baking and was taught by her grandmother, who was a "crazy baker – not professional, she would just bake all the time for any reason." Her grandmother taught her how to make the lava cakes, and for many years this was her specialty and what she would bring to dinners and parties. "It got to the point that I couldn't go to a party without chocolate cake!" She took some courses last year and learned how to make all types of French pastries, but she decided to focus on lava cake because it is very popular in France and sold in every restaurant, but there are few restaurants that sell them here – and fewer still that make them properly. As Sabatier herself notes, chocolate and pastries are serious business in French culture, and as far as lava cakes go, there must
be a difference in texture with the outside being solid and the inside being almost liquid.
Chez Chloe's cakes come in two different sizes, bite-sized mini cakes or full-size individual cakes. She makes several different flavors, including salted caramel, peanut butter, coconut, and seasonal flavors such as fresh fruit in the summer and pumpkin in the fall. She also listens to her customers' suggestions for other flavors. She only uses Belgian dark chocolate. "It makes all the difference," she says. "It's the real deal."
Next year, Sabatier hopes to have a Chez Chloe food truck all her own, and is working with the Detroit Bus Company to buy and customize one. For now, you can pre-order cakes for the holidays and visit her at Eastern Market and other holiday market events. Sabatier saw a huge demand for Thanksgiving and expects more of the same for Christmas, but be warned – you only have until Dec. 22 to get your orders, as Sabatier is returning to Paris for the holidays.
Source: Chloe Sabatier, owner of Chez Chloe
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg