Life’s too short to be in a boring job, Alexandre Stern thought to himself four years ago as he rode the metro to his office at McKinsey & Company, where he was a consultant, and vowed to make a change. After brainstorming with chefs, perfume noses and chocolate makers, he sensed a niche in the market for designer honey, and raised €8,000 using a crowdfunding platform to launch his own brand. “Like a perfume maker who carefully assembles his scents by combining different fragrances, I decided to seek out exclusive global honey blends and establish my own brand,” he says.
As we sip jasmine tea in a Parisboutique hotel, Stern could be The Man from UNCLE – he grips a large leather briefcase, wears a well-cut suit and Berlutishoes. The case holds 26 different types of honey and as we examine and taste them he explains that each tells a story. Recollections of Hungarian forests and brisk autumn country walks produced the woody, caramel and liquorice sweetness of Black Forest, which is served at the Four Seasons George V Paris with breakfast and was inspired by a stay at Le Lavandou on the Côte d’Azur. And from Asia, La Route des Indes which has spicy notes.
Until now, Stern’s honey has only been made available to Palace hotels such as Le Beau-Rivage Lausanne, where triple-Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic is particularly fond of the bergamot blend, and top chefs such as Akrame Benallal, who trained with Ferran Adria and Pierre Gagnaire, and has composed bespoke honey dinners that finish with a white cheese and honey crumble.
This month, Stern’s eponymous boutique opens at 15 Rue Vignon, Place de la Madeleine, Paris. From there he will not only sell jars of his covetable honey, but also create signature honeys for private clients (from about €3,000). Ready-to-buy jars to look out for include his latest dark amber liquid blend, Le Miel des Merveilles (Honey of Wonders, €35 for 330g, first picture), a selection box (€13 for three x 30g jars, second picture) as well as honey madeleines (€14 for a packet of eight) and mouthwatering handmade chocolates (€125 per kg), including my favourite, black ganache with eucalyptus honey.
Stern is already planning future trips to Iran, Ethiopia and Dubai and he wants to open a boutique in Japan. “I think the Japanese will appreciate my products; they are very fond of honey.” With many other projects in the pipeline, including a champagne honey, Stern concludes by fixing his eye on Britain: “I’d love to be in Harrods!”