Trained by Michelin Star chefs and having even cooked for a French president, Marvin Lattrez now calls the Eyre Peninsula home with his wife Grace and their two-year-old daughter. Their popular L’Anse French Café & Croissanterie is worth the trip to Port Lincoln simply for Marvin’s croissants and French-inspired fare.
Three minutes with Marvin Lattrez
BEN What inspired your love of food, Marvin?
MARVIN I’d say my mum; she was a very good cook. I’m from a town called Brive in a rural area in the southwest of France and I remember that as a kid, I was eating a lot of good food and I loved trying everything.
BEN Tell me about your training as a chef?
MARVIN After culinary school, I learnt my craft from Michelin Star chefs at several luxury restaurants. In France, we have a culture of trying to find our purpose in life through work, so I was very lucky to work with passionate people who gave me a drive for craftmanship; that’s who I am. I love what I’m doing because it’s very much an industry where we supply pleasure through food – making people happy.
BEN How did you end up cooking for a French president?
MARVIN I won a few cooking competitions that, along with my grades, helped me secure a job with the General Counsel which had positions available for young talent. I was very lucky to work for the French president Jacques Chirac (who was president from 1995-2007) for three years. I was delivering food to his home, and he knew me quite well by name. I served very important people and I was gravitating around politicians, very good chefs, and the best produce you could find in France. That was a big opportunity for me, and I cooked dishes that other chefs might never cook in their entire careers. It was a very disciplined environment because you were dealing with the number one and his family.
BEN How did you end up in Australia?
MARVIN Ever since I left school, I have travelled the world while working as a chef. When I moved to the Congo I became an executive chef, I met my partner Grace and our relationship became serious. Three years later, we decided to come to Australia. We lived in Melbourne, but starting a business was so expensive there that we began an Australia-wide search and discovered a listing on Gumtree for a restaurant lease in Tumby Bay. The price was too good to be true, so we decided to give it a crack.
BEN Were you nervous taking a chance on a small town in a different state?
MARVIN We did have a fear of failure. But moving to Australia and starting from scratch was scarier for us than moving to Tumby Bay, so we were ready – we took a gamble and the rest is history. We eventually decided to shut in Tumby Bay and opened our new restaurant in Port Lincoln.
BEN Tell me about your croissants…
MARVIN During Covid, we started a popup bakery which went absolutely nuts, and that’s when our reputation for pastries started. Since then, we’ve had no choice but to keep up with the demand. I never thought I would be a baker, but croissants are the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It keeps my intellect stimulated – there’s no end to improving or learning something new. Every week we create new products and we have so much fun with it.
BEN What is your method of making croissants?
MARVIN There is no one way of making a croissant and the croissants I make are complex because we work with sourdough. Other techniques just don’t give you the complexity and depth of flavour that the sourdough fermentation process gives you. I love the rusticity of it. A good croissant must be flaky, smooth and moist inside, and it needs to have flavour.
BEN Did you think that Port Lincoln would become your home?
MARVIN We didn’t come here to set up ourselves for life; it wasn’t the plan. We had a business opportunity and we decided to give a crack, but it has been great to discover the community of people and make friends. Now, we have great support around us. Your regular customers become like family and when I go on holidays, I start missing Port Lincoln. This place has become home. There is this relationship you have with the customer where they trust you and they keep coming back because you’re consistent. It’s very rewarding and it’s like a drug; you can’t stop.
BEN Do you have plans for the business?
MARVIN Grace and I would love to grow the business. We have demand for our offering, we just don’t want to stretch yourself too thin, so we’ve been assessing how we might do it slowly and sustainably.
BEN What are you passionate about outside of work?
MARVIN I love cycling and running. For me it’s very important to have something where I can switch off from the business and take on challenges outside of work. I’ve found my mojo with cycling and going to the gym.
BEN What career would you have chosen, had you not become a chef?
MARVIN I think I would have been an archaeologist. I love history and when I was a kid, I was particularly very curious about the medieval age. But I also loved cooking at school and it was just a no-brainer to just continue that passion.
This story was first published in the July 2023 issue of SALIFE magazine.
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