Dubai: The café culture in the UAE will not be the same anymore after it lost the most iconic coffee shop owner Gerard Reymond, who passed away on Wednesday.
The owner of the Café Gerard chain, founded in 1978, Reymond was known for his delectable pastries and cakes and signature cappuccinos that he served to people and created his own style of casual chit-chat with coffee.
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Long before the cyber madness hit the world and internet cafes mushroomed, Café Gerard on Jumeira Beach Road opened in 1981, with its lacy window trimmings, canopied tables serving strong aromatic coffee with delicate pastries on the side. It was a place that most Emiratis and expatriates loved to be at in the mornings. Time slowed down its pace at the coffee shop even as generations of residents thronged the place over the years.
Reymond’s only son Anthony, who manages the coffee shop chain, was not available for an immediate comment, but the grieving waiters told Gulf News that Reymond, 68, had been ailing for some time.
Born in Toulon, France, the youngest of five children, Reymond, decided to be a pastry chef at the age of 13, when his father, Roger Reymond, an engineer, gave him an ultimatum to choose a profession and become an apprentice along with his studies, as Reymond wasn’t doing too well at school. He was given an array of four places to apprentice at - a bakery, a patisserie, a butchery and a charcuterie. Being artistic by temperament, he chose to apprentice at a bakery, rolling our pastries which he found pretty.
Four years later, he graduated with Certificat d’aptitude professionalle (CAP) to be a full-time pastry chef. Later at the age of 24, he bacame a qualified pastry chef and was working at St Tropez on the French Riviera. He came to Sharjah on the invitation of a friend to open a pastry shop in 1978 and fell in love with the place.
Passionate about baking he had, in a previous interview with Gulf News, said that he started the coffee shop because he loved meeting people. He talked about rising early at 4am to bake his pastries and cakes and be ready in time to welcome his customers, sit and chit chat with them.
“I haven’t made too much money, but I have enough to keep that smile on my face to keep going,” he had said.
Reymond endeared himself to people and was always found engaging with his very loyal customers. He had revealed in the previous interview: “I believe that in my business, 15 per cent people come for cakes, 15 per cent for coffee, 20 per cent for the ambience of the coffee shop and 50 per cent for the ambience of the owner!”
He was indeed someone who reserved a large portion of his day to chat up his customers and share a cup of coffee with them, because he loved his work. Many a times, he had said, he had complete strangers walk up to him and hug him, telling him how they had visited the coffee shop as a child with their parents. He once had a woman walk in with her little daughter, order the pastry she always used to have as a child and share it with her daughter.
Reymond played a huge role in building up the vibrant café culture in UAE and opened six branches across the country in the last four decades.
His presence will be sorely missed by his patrons.