Friday, 12th April 2024 11:18
Home / Poker / Poker, with a side order of pastry, at the Paris croissant baking class

The conversation in the pressure cooker of a six-seater taxi was intense. Six people, in two facing rows of three, discussing home-schooling, Romanian healthcare, the tribulations of the digital nomad’s life and, occasionally, poker.

But it turned out this was the easy bit.

These six, wending slowly through the clogged Paris streets, would soon be turned out into the intense kitchen of La Cuisine Paris where they would be put through their paces by the deceptively stern baking tutor Eline.

You may have experienced the demands of high-level poker. But even the EPT Main Event cannot prepare you for an elite croissant baking class, one of the activities arranged for players and their guests at EPT Paris.

“Pretend it’s someone you really dislike,” Eline said, waving a rolling pin above her head before slamming it down on a pat of buttery dough. “I recently got divorced,” she added. “This is easy.”

Twelve other rolling pins landed obediently on their own slabs of dough. Let the kneading commence…

An afternoon of baking on the banks of the Seine


Alongside more common EPT-adjacent activities, such as a boat cruise down the Seine or a trip the Moulin Rouge, the croissant baking class offered players and their guests the chance to acquire a new skill.

So it was that a party from the UK, the Czech Republic, Romania, the USA (via Korea), Belarus, Latvia and Spain gathered around a long flour-dusted table and prepared for an incredibly intense few hours.

“Here is our dough, but what’s missing?” our tutor asked. “What do French people always add?”

After a few incorrect guesses, someone proffered, “Love?”

“It’s butter!” Eline said. “Butter is better than love. It will not break your heart.”

“It will break your heart differently,” American poker player Jen-yue Chiang added. (That’s particularly true of French butter which, we learned, has a minimum 80 percent fat.)

A perfect croissant, pre-roll

With health concerns put aside, we cracked on with our task, moulding croissants, pain au chocolat, chocolate twists, cinnamon buns, pain au raisin as well as a savoury, cheese-laden treat. Eline’s directions were easy to follow — so easy, in fact, that young Lara Fabian, the 6-year-old daughter of Romanian pro Stefan Fabian, quickly became the star of this baking show.

“Chef Lara” produced pastries to match the best of ours — and she did it while dextrously shovelling chocolate chips into her mouth, much to our tutor’s amusement.


The presence of Lara and her mother further underlined the EPT’s commitment to providing entertainment for everyone on these trips. Poker is demanding if players are forced to travel alone. The EPT wants to make sure that partners and guests of players should feel welcome.

The off-the-felt activities are always free and are open to everyone, not just poker players.

Petr Novotny, from Pilsen, in the Czech Republic, was also travelling to Paris with his family — although his wife and two children were exploring the museums and galleries of Paris as he hit the kitchen.

Poker player Blaz Zerjav at a previous croissant baking class

Novotny is a self-professed coffee enthusiast who opened a coffee shop in his home town and built it up to be one of the most successful in the region. With two young children, Novotny and his wife decided to try something new: selling their business and their newly-constructed home and trying the digital nomad’s life.

Petr loves poker too and realised that travelling could allow him to play more on the world circuit, all while offering his family the chance to sample numerous cultures. He was another enthusiastic baker who also enjoyed learning more from world travellers Chiang and his partner Sun Hee Yun, another keen poker player.


Conversation sometimes returned to the game that united everyone around the table, but mostly the focus was firmly on the baking. “Everyone is so serious!” a member of staff observed, dropping by the kitchen to watch. “This is a serious business,” the bakers insisted.

Whether or not anyone really knew how they had done it, we were soon staring at trays of beautiful, glistening pastries. With our names scrawled onto greaseproof paper before the unbaked treats went into the oven, we were happily reunited with the products of our specific toil.

Jugs of coffee and orange juice miraculously appeared, and we risked the potential heartbreak to dig in.

Poker faces quickly cracked into smiles of surprise. These were actually pretty good.





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