Friday interview | Séverine Rutherford on mixing the art of French patisserie with a sprinkle of science
Séverine moved to the North East 7 years ago. A Science teacher who missed authentic French patisserie, Sév taught herself how to bake before setting up Creme de la Creme, teaching from her kitchen...
By Laura Kingston
Tell us how Creme de la Creme came about?
I came to the North East 7 years ago to work in a school in Newton Aycliffe that was twinned with my school in France. I’m a Chemistry and Physics teacher and came across to teach as well as to develop a Skype exchange programme between the French and English pupils. I was only supposed to be here for one year but I met my husband in 2014 and we married in 2015. We moved up to Newcastle and have been here since.
About four years ago I was really starting to miss the French patisserie from home. I was an absolutely terrible baker and I couldn’t just wait for trips back to France so I decided to do something about it. I decided to use my knowledge of chemistry to apply science to baking recipes so I could understand it properly. I then spent hours and hours on YouTube teaching myself.
I enjoy teaching but I wanted to do something else that let me bake which I really loved. I thought to myself, ‘I can teach, I love to bake and I like science, so I will teach people how to bake and the science behind it’.
It was an idea that was really low-cost to set up as I didn’t need premises, I do it all from my home. I opened up my kitchen to small groups who could come along and learn how to bake something delicious whilst being entertained and having a good time. I have had everything from individuals and small groups of two, to stag parties! It’s been very varied and I have met some lovely people who have become my friends.
Have you had any challenges?
Not being able to say no! Creme de la Creme has been incredibly popular which is fantastic, and I also bake patisserie for other people, such as macaron towers. I found it really hard to say no but I started to feel burnout and stress which is not what I wanted. I really wanted to continue to enjoy what I was doing, so I had to learn to start saying no.
You couldn’t speak any English when you first moved here could you?
No, I couldn’t, and what’s more, I came across with my daughter who was 9-years-old at the time and she didn’t speak any English either! I’m the type of person that just says yes to doing things and when it came to actually moving here I was concerned about her – it was a lot of change. Thankfully she came home from her first day of school saying ‘Mum, it’s awesome!’ – she had loved it even though she couldn’t speak any English at that point. Geordie definitely took us a little longer to master! But we got there in the end.
Did you feel homesick?
When we first moved here I was very depressed. It was really unlike me because previously I was full of joy and energy. We lived in a small rented flat which was not very nice, we didn’t know anybody and it was hard getting used to new situations like Sunday nights alone. I really believe that going out of my comfort zone saved me though. I had to cross a bridge to be happy.
We had some crazy experiences at first. We packed our life into a tiny Mini and drove from our hometown just outside of Paris up to Newton Aycliffe. I drove for 10 hours and my daughter had to keep reminding me to get on the correct side of the road! The first roundabout I came across was just terrifying.
I wanted some company so I joined match.com, but at the time I was also obsessed with watching murder documentaries and so I was incredibly wary about meeting anyone! One of my friends came over to watch my daughter and encouraged me to go out. Paul was my first date and now we are married and very happy together.
Are you going to stay in Newcastle?
Actually no, we are preparing for our next adventure and will be moving back to France in Spring next year. We love Newcastle but we are ready for a change and want somewhere which has good weather!
What will happen to Creme de la Creme?
Unfortunately, after the Spring I will have to stop. It is a business which has worked really well in Newcastle but for obvious reasons, it wouldn’t work so well in France. I will be sad but I’m very happy with what I achieved with the business. I have met some very good friends and been really happy.
We’ll miss you! What will you miss about Newcastle?
We will really miss a lot of things. For me, it is the friendliness of the people and their non-judgemental attitude. People in the North East are very friendly and welcoming. I’ll also miss cheddar cheese and the different wines and prosecco that I have been able to try in Newcastle. The food and drink scene in the North East is getting better all of the time.