The patisserie world is evolving
What is important in patisserie?
Even when it’s pretty – if it’s not delicious, people won’t want to buy it again. That’s why – first of all – it has to be delicious, and then pretty. I prefer something delicious, even if there is room for improvement on the visual side, than the opposite. I spend lots of time working on the taste.
There is a tendency toward healthier food in cooking.
It’s the same in patisserie. Mr. Ducasse’s policy is to decrease added sugar, so that’s also the tendency in Plaza Athénée – but one can’t go too far. It is important to preserve balance.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Beautiful women! (laughs)
It’s important to stay in tune with the seasons. I don’t use strawberries in winter. It is important to use seasonal items. I like using my experience to reinvent classic desserts. I’m of Italian descent, so I played around and reinvented a Tiramisu.
In order to keep on growing, what should you pay attention to?
First we choose a high quality product, to improve, and present. For me the most important things to pay attention to are: textures, the taste, and the marriage of flavors, which is what really brings the harmony. Take a chocolate éclair, for example, as simple as it seems… Even if you use the best chocolate in the world, if the texture of the cream is off, it’s not going to work out.
Are you especially fond of a particular pastry chef or a patisserie?
There are not many that I don’t like. I see a lot of pastry chefs making amazing things. We talk about it a lot in France. Quite a few people have become independent and opened their own pastry shops in recent times. I really enjoy eating their creations. The new generation is coming up and the pastry world is evolving fast.
Japanese techniques and ingredients are now widespread in the world of French cuisine, but not really in the pastry realm right?
Japanese ingredients are fairly expensive but I like using yuzu – this year I used some in the Christmas yule. I love matcha green tea. I also studied Japanese traditional pastries – it’s really interesting, but very technical.
Be proud of your amazing profession. Take the time to learn. Understand that success doesn’t come overnight.
What is important in your work?
When I came to the Plaza Athénée, I didn’t go off into a corner to make my own little creations and then come out saying, “Here are my recipes, proceed accordingly.” No – I sat down with some members of my team to give them some guidelines. I listened to them, they listened to me, and we created together.
Young pastry chefs have their own experience, their good qualities, and they know a lot of things. For me it’s very interesting to see a different philosophy or a different approach, and to combine my ideas with their ideas – it’s crucial.
I can’t work alone in my corner because I need to share and to interact – that’s how I work.
What is your message to young staff?
You should be proud to be part of the most amazing profession in the world. Take all the time that’s necessary to learn. You need to understand that success doesn’t come overnight. It’s the same as for a sushi chef.
In order to do well, you must undergo years of training. You need to be patient, and happy about what you’re doing. Being a pastry chef requires a lot of energy and a lot of work- just like in other professions. And it’s important to tell people about your beautiful profession.
Life is beautiful but there are challenges along the way, so life is not always simple. You might have problems or difficulties. But hang in there, because our life is beautiful. And we are doing an amazing job. You can make the clients happy, and you can see them smiling. And when you see them eating with pleasure and taking seconds, it tells you your work is a success.
But before you get there, you have to work, train, and persevere. Listening is also important. Young people don’t always like to listen, but it’s important to listen to the people above you. You need time to process and observe, to read, and to pay attention to what’s around you – but also time for activities outside of pastry.