Meet : Alexandre from Maison Dandoy
THE BEST SPECULOOS FROM BRUSSELS
In 1829, the first Maison Dandoy shop opened on rue du Marché-aux-Herbes. Its only speciality is speculoos, a delicious biscuit in the shape of Saint Nicholas, made from butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon.
A week before Saint Nicholas Day, we met Alexandre Helson, the 7th generation of Maison Dandoy !
Could you present yourself to us?
My name is Alexandre Helson, I am in charge of marketing, sales and development at Maison Dandoy. I am also the 7th generation of the family; as Maison Dandoy is a 100% family institution, I also work with my brother and father!
I joined the family business nearly 6 years ago with the ambition of bringing Maison Dandoy into the 21st Century. It is nearly 200 years old! It has quite a history associated with it, an authenticity and products, but it needed a new lease of life; that was the challenge that I set myself when I joined the business.
How do you reconcile the business’s traditions with your more modern desires ?
It is a constant balancing act ! We try to reconcile our values, authenticity in particular, with a forward-looking vision. And the same goes for our recipes! We take our time to make good decisions; we are not bound by any requirements. We create partnerships when we have wonderful encounters, when we have a special feeling about something, a little like what happened with Le Bon Marché.
What are your sources of inspiration for all of your creations ?
I am a little less involved in product design than in the concepts that we develop. As my wife is a restaurant-owner, we share a real interest in cooking, we travel a lot, and our encounters and desires are what really inspires us on a daily basis to come up with recipes for the house
What is your best Speculoos recipe ?
Well, last year, we asked four chefs from Brussels to come up with their own interpretations of a speculoos recipe, and the recipes were really interesting; for example, Joël Geismar and his Basque black pudding with Espelette pepper, Dandoy speculoos and stewed apples. Personally, I like them plain, but I also like them used in a dessert!
Speculoos biscuits are a Saint Nicholas Day tradition. Do you have any memories that you associate with them ?
Oh yes, so many memories! Even as an adult, 6 December is still a magical day, even more important than Christmas itself. I have two young children, and it’s a joy to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day with them and for them. Speculoos biscuits are really the emblem of Saint Nicholas ; they were given to children as a toy, and they are a symbol of sharing. We would put a huge speculoos biscuit on the table (the largest at our house was 80cm !), and people would start to break it and take pieces of it, and there was such a warm atmosphere. That is why speculoos biscuits were created.
You have set up shop for the first time in France at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche. What does Le Bon Marché mean to you?
Le Bon Marché is an emblem of Paris. It is the temple of refinement, of authentic products, and there is something that I like about their approach to luxury. For these reasons, we are proud to be at Le Bon Marché.
What are your favourite places in Brussels?
In Brussels, there is Bouchery, which I really like, and which created a recipe using our speculoos biscuits. There is a natural wine bar called Tarzan, which we really enjoy visiting. And for a taste of real Brussels, there is Friture René in Anderlecht, which is an authentic, family Brussels restaurant!