Pastry chef, Claire Chapman is on a mission to make the community that she loves a little sweeter, one dish at a time.
Summerville’s charm and small-town atmosphere have captured the attention of restaurateurs, igniting a spark that can be seen on Main Street, Central and Richardson Avenues. This interest is not a surprise to Summerville resident, pastry chef and part-owner of St. Honoré Pastry, Claire Chapman. While making a name for herself in the Lowcountry’s tightly interwoven culinary community,Claire has resided in Summerville with her husband, Christian, (who has deep roots in the Town) and their daughter, Chloe. Her ability to create impeccably executed pastries, bread and desserts, command of the kitchen and disciplined work ethic landed her the executive pastry chef positions in several of the tricounty areas award winning fine dining establishments: The Woodlands Resort and Inn in Summerville; the Sanctuary at Kiawah and Peninsula Grill in Charleston. Claire had the distinguished honor to be part of a culinary team invited to cook at the James Beard House, not once but twice. Representing the Sanctuary on one occasion and Peninsula Grill on the other. She also taught pastry classes at Trident Technical College and the Art Institute of Charleston. Of all these accomplishments, she credits the support of the Summerville community, culinary collective and restaurants for her success as a small business owner.
Originally from South Africa, Claire learned to bake and make sugar flower decorations from her grandmother, a wedding cake maker. At nineteen, she and her parents immigrated to the United States. They settled in Charlotte, North Carolina. Determined to enter the culinary field, but not ready to commit to a culinary program, Claire began working as a pastry cook at Myers Park Country Club apprenticing with classical French pastry chef Jean Luc Barrucand. Recognizing her potential, Myers Park Country Club sent Claire to Chicago and New York for continuing education classes. Barrucand also helped Claire secure a three-month internship at a patisserie in Lyon, France.
After four years of work experience, coursework and an internship in her pocket, Claire accepted a position as the executive pastry chef at the Woodlands Resort and Inn in 2001. The decision to relocate to South Carolina launched a 20-year career in the Lowcountry. Along the way, Claire made contacts that would prove to be instrumental in her segue from executive chef to an adjunct pastry instructor and eventually part- owner of St. Honoré Pastry. “Charleston is such a small community, it’s all about the relationships we’ve built over the years, looking for one another, supporting each other’s successes and not burning bridges because inevitably, your paths will cross again”.
Working full time, Claire moonlit making wedding cakes and desserts for special events. On her days off, she would fill orders. Embraced by the residents of Summerville, her side business started to grow at a slow and steady pace. The trajectory of her small enterprise shifted when former co-worker and Sommelier at the Woodlands, Stephane Pietier opened Accent on Wine. Wanting to support the local Summerville culinary community and familiar with her work, he contracted Claire to make a goat cheesecake topped with fresh fruit, salted caramel chocolate and baklava. Stephane recounts several factors contributed to his decision to hire Claire. “She lived in Summerville, had an excellent command of the fine dining industry understood the sacrifices it takes to run your own business and absolutely poured her heart into her work. I wanted a dessert that complemented our wines, Not too sweet and heavy. Growing up in South Africa and interning in France, she knew the subtle balance needed to create great quality deserts without being overbearing and the strict principles that govern baking. She also had the ability to listen to what I wanted to offer my customers”.
Needing help to handle the volume, in 2017, Claire partnered with Kelly Wilson, an instructor in the Trident Technical Culinary program and former executive pastry chef at Cypress restaurant. Together they rented a kitchen. Giving a nod to the patron saint of bakers, they christened their business St. Honoré Pastry. No longer able to meet the demands of their retail customers and use to working with chef ’s, St. Honoré Pastry in its infancy,became strictly a wholesale distributor, supplying discerning goods for high end restaurants and caterers. Hank’s Seafood and Salthouse Caterers, whose exclusive clientele enjoy fine cuisine with unforgettable desserts wereSt.Honoré’s first large volume clients.
With a newly rented wholesale kitchen and production at it’s peak, the pandemic hit forcing many businesses to modify and adjust. Hardest hit was the restaurant industry. The mandated closures had a trickledown effect that impacted not only the servers and onsite staff but the distributors as well. St. Honoré was left with a pantry of ingredients and freezers full of desserts, Claire reached out to her neighbors, friends and Summerville residents via social media offering homemade baked breads, biscuits and desserts for pick up at Hutchison Square. The restless community once again surrounded Claire with support. To meet the requests of her clients, St. Honoré started posting a weekly menu on Facebook that included more savory items: chicken and tomato pies, quiches, soups, chicken salad, and pimento cheese along with desserts, breads, and pastries. All handmade using locally sourced produce. “Summerville really backed and embraced us. Without their support we would not have survived the pandemic. We were able to tread water and stay afloat other businesses were going under”.
The epitome of slow and steady wins the race, she is modest and humble with a genuine smile that radiates thankfulness and gratitude for both her culinary network, Summerville community, friends, and family. Measured and consistent she never felt under time constraints accomplish a major goal by a particular date, nor did she desire to bake to meet financial obligations. Instead, she patiently made from scratch sustenance, hand rolling breads, crusts, and biscuits; delicately creating sugar flower masterpieces to adorn her wedding cakes, she finds a sense of peace. Instead of forcing herself, she sauntered along, preparing for the arrival of opportunities to continue doing what she loves, baking. AM
St. Honoré can be found at the Summerville Farmers Market on Saturday, online at St. Honoré Pastry. Pre-orders can be picked up at their production kitchen at 2408 Ashley River Road in the Pierpont Shopping Center in West Ashley on Friday and Saturday from 9:00- 2:00. Walk-ins are welcome.