The person whom you work with is really important
What is the work of an Executive Chef?
You have to create new desserts, according to the season, which fit the themes of our various venues, restaurants, cafés, tearooms, bars… In addition to Monsieur Alain Ducasse’s three star restaurant, there is great variety: the brasserie “Le Relais Plaza”, “La Galerie”, “La Cour Jardin”, “La Terrasse Montaigne”, “Le Bar du Plaza Athénée”, and the room service.
In addition, we have to create desserts for specific events. For instance: Christmas Yules, Galette des Rois (French Twelfth Night cake), and Easter eggs.
Our quest is for something beautiful, interesting, and delicious that can’t be found elsewhere. It’s easy to make something pretty, but the most important thing is the taste. Making something really delicious requires the technique and experience of a professional.
You work at the ‘Plaza Athénée’ ten days a month, and you do consulting the rest of the time. What does it mean for a pastry chef to be a consultant?
I just returned from Mexico, where I was helping out a French company. Sometimes I propose new products, but often I take the existing products and work on them to make them more delicious and attractive.
This week, for example, I worked on the chocolate cake. It was too sweet and there was something wrong with the texture. We modified the cake, while still keeping its spirit. We changed the texture and decreased the sugar to make it an even better product.
What I really like is when the owner of the place tastes the new version of the product, notices the improvement, and shows his appreciation.
I also give advice to French companies wanting to expand or export overseas.
What are your criteria for accepting a job?
I like to be with people with whom I enjoy working. I’m forty-six and have been in this profession for twenty-seven years, but there are always new challenges and situations where I must start from scratch.
It’s important to find pleasure in your work. If you are happy, you make the client and the hotel management happy.
I have to prove to the management that I’m implementing their request, and I have to give the clients what they’re looking for. That’s why it’s really important to appreciate the people you work with.
Great encounters lead to the next stage
‘La Pâtisserie des Rêves’ has been very successful. There are three shops in Paris, plus others in Japan, Milano, and Abu Dhabi. What is the key to success?
First of all, we restyled and modernized the classic French cakes in order to adapt them to today’s tastes. We have reinvented French classics. We start with old favorites, such as the St Honoré cake, the Paris-Brest, the Flan (custard flan), the orange tart, the mocha cake, and the Eclair. Then we make use of all the evolution in our craft – using new materials, new techniques, and the best ingredients – to enhance the product and make it as delicious and as pretty as possible, yet also as simple as possible.
Philippe Conticini, Thierry Teyssier, and I worked as a team. I first got to know him when he was coaching the French team at the Pastry World Championship. Then he introduced me to Thierry Teyssier, and after the opening of ‘La Pâtisserie des Rêves’, we worked together for five years.
That’s how I came to work in Japan. We have been able to expand ‘La Patisserie des Rêves’ to Kyoto and Osaka.
Then I left ‘La Pâtisserie des Rêves’ to go back to work for two years in Metz, in Claude Bourguignon’s (my old mentor) pastry shop. His daughter had just taken over the shop and I went there to help her out.
After that, I worked as a consultant and a lecturer for a while, before being called here this year by Alain Ducasse.
How is it working at ‘Plaza Athénée’?
I’m excited to be facing this new challenge, just like a child having fun baking cakes. I received a very warm welcome and the place is magic. For a pastry chef, this is the very best possible kind of adventure. I love this profession and feel as excited and curious about it as a child – I enjoy every moment of every day.
Aside from ‘La Pâtisserie des Rêves’ didn’t you also have other activities in Japan?
I worked on promotional events for a French chocolate company, Cacao Barry, and I was teaching pastry classes too. The first time I came to Japan was in 2003. After our victory at the Pastry World Championship, Valrhona took the French team on a Japanese tour.
I was thrilled from the beginning and have visited every year since. I would like to have more opportunities to go – if someone were to come forward with a pastry shop project, I probably wouldn’t hesitate.