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iDessert Creates Niche And Deliciously Fills It

A small boy looks on in amazement as he receives his dessert: a colorful, dome-shaped meringue shell filled with gelato, cream and fresh berries, topped with rainbow sprinkles and a chocolate sauce stick, and wrapped in a cloud of dry-ice smoke. He very well could be the young Charlie marveling at the confectionary wonders in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in Roald Dahl’s popular children’s book.

And that’s just the kind of experience the French owners of iDessert hope to impart to customers.

Jean-Philippe Maury is a world-renowned pastry chef who is looking to make his name a local one, at least in Little Italy where he’s created a build-your-own dessert shop on India Street.

“The idea was to create something sweet, but not like a bakery or cupcake or doughnut or frozen yogurt (shop),” said Maury, 47, founder of iDessert and a pastry chef for 30 years. “Our idea was to come up with something new and I’m a former pastry chef so I have a background in pastries and baking…so I started working on a concept where people could build their own desserts.”

The iDessert concept is a build-your-own dessert that includes a meringue crust, gelato and cream. Extras include cake, sauce and fruits as well as the choice to upgrade to a Vegas bowl, where the confection is served bathed in a cloud of dry-ice smoke.

“The thing about being a chef for so many years is you’re used to doing fancy desserts,” Maury said. “I know what people like. I believe I know what people want so the whole idea was to create something attractive, fun, but also good.”

Maury opened iDessert in July 2015 with hopes of doing something innovative. The shop sells sundaes, desserts, milkshakes and crepes (which customers will be able to design in about a month).

Stocking Up for the Future

He expects to start opening franchises himself or partnering with another business by the end of this year. He thinks the second shop will either be in Orange County or Los Angeles. Since he opened the store, Maury said, he has received offers to franchise every week.

He plans to open a commissary kitchen north of San Diego to stock the

future franchisees with all the items they currently create out of the shop.

Everything created at iDessert is made from scratch. The company hopes in the future that it can provide seasonal treats, such as sorbet, Easter cookies, celebration cakes (which they plan to release by the end of the year) and warm cakes.

Retail products already available include meringues, marshmallow chocolates, nougats and chocolate balls, with new products rolled out weekly.

The company makes an average of 600 desserts each weekend day (Friday-Sunday) and 200-250 desserts daily on weekdays. The average cost of a dessert is $8.50, but the price ranges from $4.95 to $10 based on what the customer picks. From December to March, revenue increased about 40 percent, according to Celine Maury, 40, his wife and office manager.

Boost From iPad Ordering

The store uses iPads to take orders and created its own application to display on the screens, which takes the name and individualized order of each customer. Maury said using iPads increased the average check amount by almost 50 percent.

“When the system is down and they don’t see it, they don’t understand it,” Celine said. “They don’t actually see how the components go so it’s less appealing and they won’t order drinks the same way, (or) all the other extras.”

The shop also has a host who walks around the shop during the evenings to assist customers in placing their orders. A piece of paper can replace the iPad should there be an issue or should customers need to decide ahead of time when waiting in line.

Maury and his wife moved to the United States 18 years ago. One reason for the move was the opportunity for entrepreneurship was more widely accepted here than in France, where he is from. People in the United States have more opportunity to be personally successful through work and there’s room for everybody, Celine said.

“When you’re too successful (in France), you have to hide,” Celine said. “Here people are more positive about it because in America, I feel like everybody has their own chance so there’s that mentality too that was more appealing.”

Jean-Philippe accepted the position of executive pastry chef at his self-titled Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie at the AAA Five Diamond Bellagio in Las Vegas in 1998. That location is home to the largest chocolate fountain in the world. He oversaw dessert production for 17 gourmet restaurants, room service and catering functions. He is still a partner at that location.

In 2002, Jean-Philippe and his team won the gold medal for the World Pastry Team Championship as part of Team USA. His assistants represented him in 2004 and won the gold medal again for Team USA.

He also served as executive pastry chef for the ARIA Resort and Casino in Vegas in 2009 and opened his own shop there. He signed a contract this past year with MSC Cruises, a global cruise line that wants to bring Jean-Philippe’s chocolate, crepe and ice cream shop onto its new Divina 5,000-person vessel in Florida in 2017.

“We are perfectionists and we like everything to work the way it’s supposed to,” Celine said. “So quality is important, customer service and all of these components. If someone wants to partner with us, they need to understand that too. It’s not just about money. It’s a brand, and it’s a concept.”

iDESSERT

CEO: Jean Philippe Maury

No. of local employees: 12

Headquarters: Little Italy

Year founded: 2015

What makes the company innovative: Combines various dessert concepts and allows personalization by taking orders on iPads

Key factors for success: Unique dessert, individualized orders and quality, natural ingredients

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