Life in the Covid-19 era can often be bitter with cancelled plans, friends missed, illness and even death. There’s no cure for Covid as yet, but there may be a cure for at least some of the bitterness you’re experiencing lately: Something sweet.
Hey, Claire is an ambitious new confiserie that will take that bitter taste from your mouth – absolutely guaranteed – with a whole-package of sweet treats for you to enjoy.
With their unique presentation, textures and flavours the lively vibe of their shop and its offerings will take your mind off of all things stressful.
Hey, Claire is a play on the word eclair, a classic oblong pastry that the shop – opened by Russian couple Stas and Galina Zhogov – specialises in.
They noticed that many of the bakeries and pastry shops in Cambodia made other types of cakes or desserts but no one was really focusing on the eclair yet.
“We decided to find a name like eclair and Hey, Claire was what we kind of randomly came up with because the pronunciation is so similar,” says Galina, who’s also the head pastry chef.
Hey, Claire opened back on December 15, 2020, after the couple’s successful tourism agencies in Siem Reap were disrupted by the onset of the pandemic.
“Before Covid we lived in Siem Reap where we ran one of the most successful tourist agencies and also a hotel and restaurant all geared towards the Russian market.
“However, like most of the tourism and hospitality industries, our businesses were hard hit by the pandemic and were forced to close.
“Instead of feeling defeated, we took it as a challenge to reinvent ourselves and follow our passion for creating authentic and inimitable gourmet desserts,” Stas tells The Post.
They already had a restaurant with a kitchen full of equipment so they decided to spend their time learning something new to stay busy. The more they learned about confectionaries, the more attached they became to the idea of bringing one to the Cambodian market with skilfully made desserts at reasonable prices.
The couple advanced their skills by learning from some of the best internationally-recognised pastry chefs like Antonio Bachour, Karim Bourge, Cedric Grolet – and one of the best chocolatiers in the world – Alexander Bordeaux.
“We used the time and opportunity to add to our skills through online education. We found courses, master classes from these professional chefs and we learned from them. We worked hard to prepare ourselves in order to present refined products to this market,” Galina says.
Every day for 6 months the couple experimented with a range of ingredients to test different textures and flavours of a variety of creams and sauces.
They tried out dozens of ingredient combinations in order to find the perfect balance of sweet and rich flavours with a delicate quality to them not found at franchised donut shops.
They opted to use only the best quality ingredients to stay in compliance with Russia’s GOST food safety certification which meets the international HACCP standards used in all developed countries.
This includes Callebaut, the finest Belgian chocolate as well as Belgian cacao butter, French butter, French cream and cream cheese, macaroons and craquelin made with high quality almond flour and fruit or berry purees from France’s Ravifruit and Boiron.
“We take pride in never using any margarine, MSG or artificial colouring or flavours. We only use ingredients that are 100 per cent natural and organic.
“And to provide you with the ultimate gastronomic experience, we don’t keep any desserts in stock. Nothing is frozen and then defrosted later. Each of our treats is prepared exclusively to order and delivered fresh from our mini-factory.
“Incredible birthday and celebration cakes are available as well, including gluten-free and sugar-free options,” Galina explains.
Hey, Claire does not have a brick and mortar shop currently, which helps them deliver a unique gastronomic experience for their customers to enjoy at home.
The pricing at Hey, Claire is very reasonable considering the quality. Their eclairs are $3 each, unless you order four of them which will drop the price to $2.50. Their mousse cupcakes are $3.50 individually or four for $3 each. And their custom birthday cakes are $30 per 1kg of cake, but place your order at least two days in advance.
All their goodies – from the decorative eclairs and dazzling mousse-cakes to their custom birthday cakes – are packed into festive gift boxes and delivered by their dedicated staff directly into the customer’s hands.
“We’re seeing a trend lately where our beautiful white boxes of eclairs and art-mousse cakes are being sent as gifts to show appreciation to friends and loved ones, and they really are perfect for that,” Galina says.
Hey, Claire celebrated their 6-month anniversary on June 15 and in that short time their small company has gained a big reputation for the quality of their desserts.
In that short period of time they have also collaborated with an impressive list of well-established Phnom Penh businesses: Le Condo, HGB group, Pacific Pasta, Team Cafe and others.
Their creations are highly appreciated by their regular patrons, but also by professional chefs and managers at some of the best Cambodian hotels and restaurants who were happy to speak with The Post about a new business they feel deserves a big round of applause for what they have brought to the capital’s culinary scene.
Thomas Bianco, director of food and beverage at Raffles hotel, raves about Hey, Claire when asked his opinion of the shop.
“Finding good quality pastries is never easy but Hey, Claire has nailed it with some of the best recipes I have tried in Cambodia. Not only is the presentation attractive, but the taste and textures are really great. You can feel the creativity and passion they have for their products! I wouldn’t miss the salted caramel eclair for anything in the world,” he says.
Similarly, Pierre Favitski – chef and owner at Le Deli Bistro Gourmet – says that “those eclairs . . . such gems! They have lots of creativity and natural flavours. Not too sweet, either, just enough to make you go back to the box again and again.”
“As a Chef, I always aim to find the best products and treat them the best way to always deliver the premium experience to our guests . . . I honestly can confirm that these guys are nailing it, serving us some of the best eclairs I’ve ever tasted,” he says.
Bertrand Darde, executive chef at Bouchon Wine Bar, also provided an overwhelmingly positive review, saying that “I was surprised because food that tastes really good usually doesn’t look so fabulous at the same time. But when I tried it, it was like – wow! They offer an amazing experience and a double pleasure because first you get to look at it and then you get to eat it. It’s beautiful.”
Galina and Stas say they are thrilled when they hear some of the top culinary professionals in the city say such flattering things about their desserts because it’s an affirmation that they are achieving what they set out to do when they first had the idea for the shop.
“We want to create desserts for those who don’t want to compromise between taste and beauty. The idea is that each dessert is a little work of art, but ephemeral in nature because it only lasts until it is eaten. However, in our view, the fact that they end up in your stomach doesn’t make them any less of a masterpiece.
“So, if you haven’t tried us yet, you definitely should, as it’s perfect for a gift, high tea party, a picnic with friends or a lazy Sunday breakfast,” Stas says.
Hey, Claire’s desserts are available by delivery only and they can be contacted via their Facebook page @hey.claire.kh and also via Telegram or Whatsapp: +855 70 801 888.