There are some venues you’d be happy to show up to having just rolled out of bed, hair tangled and your Sunday (holey) pants on, but when you’re heading to the Hunter Valley’s newest gem, Gigi & Chix Bonbon Patisserie, you make an effort—because Angela Joy has made an effort for you.
Angela radiates a style that is difficult to describe. It’s classy without being stiff or uptight, chic without being intimidating, and sexy and sultry without being smutty, and she has carefully crafted Gigi & Chix to match. While some of the inspiration behind the patisserie’s design comes from her travels in Europe, Zimbabwe-born Angela says for the most part “the brainchild behind that design and the beauty and the awesomeness of the store is just me!”
“I like chicness in everything that I do— the way that I present myself or my house—so I wanted to have somewhere that was just sexy and chic and sophisticated that someone wearing pearls and their Camilla skirt could just come in and just sit and enjoy.
“I wanted to create an atmosphere. For me, it was just making sure that every detail I put into the place, from the paint… I wanted it to reflect who I am at the end of the day.
“Even the artwork itself is just black people everywhere, but it looks nice, it looks sexy. It’s a reflection of myself and how I believe people should be entertained and how people should dine.”
With a natural talent for imitating the flavours she tastes when she’s eating out and an innate desire to bake, Angela is entirely self-taught, crediting her mother for being kind enough to encourage and facilitate her passion.
“It’s only now that I’m starting to appreciate my own skill,” she says.
“When everyone that comes in enjoys the pastries and goes ‘Oh my God this it amazing’, or whatever the case might be, I go, ‘oh, okay maybe I’m a bit better than average on this’.”
Coming into the baking business without any formal training, Angela says she was lucky to be able to get some essential advice from industry-great Dean Gibson, who came in to show her chocolate techniques but also imparted his knowledge of setting up a commercial bakery.
“I contacted him when I wanted him to show me how to do chocolate—temper chocolate and stuff like that,” she says.
“Once or twice a week he’d come into the space and tell me what equipment I need and where to buy things like flour. I used to buy my stuff from Coles and Woolworths and Harris Farms.”
Since opening in December, Angela’s croissants have quickly achieved notoriety in the Hunter Valley along with her range of other French pastries, with customers heaping praise on her whenever they come in.
“Not that I ever doubted it, but the reactions I’ve got from it has just blown my mind,” Angela says.
“That has become the favourite—ham and cheese croissant—because I make them every day; they’re nice and fresh. And then it’s just more pastry based tarts, and éclairs have also been one of the things people come in for.”
Angela previously worked as a pastry chef at Hunter’s Quarter, however this tenure was cut short when the pandemic hit, giving her no time to settle in and really utilise her skills. But when one door closes another one opens, and this loss propelled Angela towards launching her own venture.
Asked about the experience of opening a business during COVID times, Angela says it wasn’t scary.
“I think it was more I either do it or I don’t do it,” she says.
“It was just one of those things where I just thought, ‘Well, what’s the worst thing that could happen?’
“I never looked at it like my life was going to end if it did fail. That’s what I decided to do, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Where does Angela get her inspiration and motivation in life and business? As it turns out, it comes from the same place as the name of her patisserie—her two daughters, aged seven and four.
“My kids—my pride and joy—[Gigi and Chix] are their pet names,” she says.
“Whatever I do in this life is always going to be about my kids. I always take that with me, and to be honest I just always thought there is no better original source than the names of your own children.
“It was never going to be anything else.”
Like many working mothers, Angela says finding a balance between her children, her business and her own needs is difficult, but she’s constantly striving to hit the sweet spot and correct her course when it becomes unbalanced.
“[It’s] very demanding, but I think just as a parent you learn to prioritise the most important things to you and your children,” she says.
“My kids they are here with me at the shop. They have seen the amount of hard work that goes into starting your own place and running the home, and also making sure I’m there for them as their mum.
“They ultimate sacrifice is probably me, but I’m very aware of that, so I try to take some time out to go to the gym and watch some of my favourite comedians (like Kevin Hart!).
“I don’t take things too seriously. Even though I focus on what I do I don’t take it too serious because I do understand that I’ve got to live my life, and I enjoy cake so I eat cake!”
For the time being, Gigi & Chix consists of a crew of two, with Angela in the kitchen and one other person welcoming and serving in front of house. However, there is some exciting growth in the works with Angela getting her liquor licence and with it, a new chapter for Gigi & Chix in the form of a chic wine bar—and thoughts of possible expansion in the future.
“I’ll be doing things like Friday nights and Saturday nights where I have fondue with some great local wines—premium wines—and we can do some oysters,” Angela muses.
“A nice chill out place where you can enjoy premium wines without the noise and the hustle and bustle. The type of crowd I’m trying to attract is people who just want to enjoy their wines at night and have conversation.
“Eventually we might want to expand to Newcastle because we do get a lot of patronage from Newcastle, but I’m also not rushing into doing that.
“But with the success of this, we’ll most likely be looking at finding a beautiful venue in Newcastle. If we don’t, we can find a much bigger venue here in the Hunter Valley.
“These are things that are always in the back of my mind.”