Brandview: Meet a Pastry Chef
When did you know you wanted to become a pastry chef?
As a child, my first dream was to become an entomologist, but I had to give that up when I started struggling with physics at school. At my father’s suggestion, I visited a job fair where there was a small bakery at one of the stands. I stood there for a while, watching the chef and his colleagues working together. It was an amazing experience to see them bake. It was then and there that I realised I wanted to become a pastry chef. When I turned 17, I went to Paris to study at the Ferrandi School. After graduating, I worked in Paris and Prague for a while, then, at the age of 23, I went to the US and worked with renowned chef Jean Banchet at his fine-dining restaurant in Atlanta. I stayed there for five years, then moved to California to work at the Ritz-Carlton as a pastry sous chef, then executive pastry chef for five years. In the years that followed, I worked at The Peninsula in Bangkok. Then I moved to Dubai and worked at The Address Downtown, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, and I ended up at Atlantis four years ago.
What is the source of your inspiration?
I have a holistic approach to food, and therefore it’s not only the taste that I care about, but also how it food is presented, as well as the entire look and feel of the experience. It’s important to consider how your buffet, restaurant or little shop is decorated. Based on that, my inspiration is drawn from many sources, such as shop vitrines, interior decorations, the internet, my travels, television, or even through conversations with people. This doesn’t mean that one should copy what they see; rather, they can get an idea and develop their own.
How do you find the right ingredients for your recipes?
Good ingredients are very important; you cannot get good results with ingredients of inferior quality. We work hard to ensure that we’re using the best ingredients. A pastry chef is most aware of the subtle differences between ingredients, whereas clients are more likely to admire the taste in a general way. My approach is to find the best ingredients for me, and this guarantees that my guests will enjoy them.
Let’s talk about dairy products: what role do they play in your creations?
Dairy products are quite important. As I mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to get good results with bad ingredients. Dairy products play a major role in my recipes, and they must be at the highest level of quality — this includes butter and cream. There are many restaurants at Atlantis The Palm, each hosting a large number of guests daily, therefore it is imperative that we do all of our baking in-house.
Speaking of butter, what is high-quality butter for you?
At Atlantis, we bake 1,500 to 2,000 croissants every single day. The freshness and richness of the butter we use are the key to their quality; these two factors are of crucial importance. The taste of the butter is equally important, and we get the right results with Président butter sheets.
How about cream? What do you consider to be a good cream?
Freshness is the most important factor when I’m considering cream; whether it’s whipped, liquid or in any other form. Additionally, mixing cream with other ingredients will lend a distinct taste to the other ingredients, and I find that Président cream maintains its freshness without entirely changing the taste of the ingredient it is added to. What I mean by that, is that when the cream is mixed with chocolate, the chocolate will maintain its freshness and taste, and the cream acts as an enhancement; an after-touch that makes things taste better.
What advice would you give to pastry chefs?
I would say: don’t think that school teaches you everything. School merely teaches you the basics, but after that you must work in a kitchen to learn more and gain experience. The problem with today’s generation is that people are in a hurry to grow, which often leads them to an impasse where they get stuck and can’t move forward. Experience takes time, but it is a sure-fire path to success.