What does it take to be a top level pastry chef?

What does it take to be a top level pastry chef?

 Australian Baking Business talks to some of Australia’s best to learn the skill and dedication required.

Jean-Michel Raynaud, Baroque

Multi award-winning pastry chef, kick-boxing champion, holder of a Masters in Business Administration, and television star are just some of the strings Baroque’s head patisser, Jean-Michel Raynaud has in his bow.

French-born Mr Raynaud began his career under the tutelage of master patissier, Robert Schicci in Marseille. Jean-Michel’s exceptional talents for pulling sugar, piping and chocolate carving ensured his meteoric rise to head pastry chef by the age of 20. Working in the kitchens of some of the world’s most recognised institutions followed, including famous 3-Michelin starred French restaurant Le Petit Nice.

“My first chef, Robert Schicci exposed me to higher-end cake decoraton, piping, pulled sugar and other technical/creative skills that normally isn’t provided to younger chef. By the end of the apprenticeship I was very advanced at the technical skills that others were still attempting,” Mr Raynaud said.

Capitalising on his skill-set, Mr Raynaud was able to forge a name for himself specialising in the exclusive wedding cake market as the head chef of Sweet Art and Planet Cake.

In addition to his skills as a patisser, Mr Raynaud holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and has completed an Advanced Leadership course at Harvard University. He is also recognised as a kick-boxing champion, winning three Australian Championships and even achieving an Intercontinental Welterweight Champion title in 1992. Mr Raynaud’s diverse combination of qualifications, abilities and passion, together with his formidable creative skills, has enabled him to inspire students on three continents – not to mention his myriad of appearances on both television, radio and in print media.

Now, working in the kitchen alongside acclaimed Baroque bistro chef de cuisine, Peter Robertson, Mr Raynaud is enjoying the new challenges and inspirations that his role as head patisser provides.

“Working with bistro chefs at Baroque is a wonderful experience. We get to play with an incredible variety of skills (and) sharing ideas and techniques between the two areas really helps me to innovate and inspire in the patisserie,” Mr Raynaud said.

Flexing his creative muscles, Mr Raynaud is currently working on a set of seasonal flavours for his macarons, each of which will reflect the mood of the season. He also leads Baroque’s macaron masterclasses, passing to Sydneysiders tips and tricks that he has acquired during his sensational culinary career.

“The essence of my approach to food is based on a foundation of quality and tradition. At Baroque, we push the boundaries of texture, flavour and quality to stay contemporary and at the forefront of the industry, but we always retain the heritage of our French roots,” he said.

Paolo Zanotti, Caffe Sicilia

Sydney-based Caffe Sicilia head pastry chef, Paolo Zanotti was born with Sicilian pastry flowing through his blood.

The executive pastry chef from Palermo, Italy, grew up in a kitchen surrounded by a pastry-loving family. His father and grandfather were both pastry chefs and his big break came while working under Palermo’s most famous pastry chef, Galati Pietro, from renowned patisserie Pasticceria Montecarlo.

“I learnt the basics of making pastry from a young age and it inspired me to want to expand my knowledge on Sicilian pastry even further,” Mr Zanotti told Australian Baking Business

There is no escaping history in Sicily and this applies to pastries too, according to Paolo. Sicilian pastries have had many influences from the countries that have occupied the island in the past – including Arabs, Normans and even northern Italians.

“Cannoli, for example, were historically prepared as a treat during the Carnevale season (a festive season before Lent) and eventually became a staple throughout Italy. We have blended these influences to create our own unique style, taste and presentation. The three words to describe our pastry is colour, flavour, and of course, creativity,” Mr Zanotti said.

Caffe Sicilia owner, Phillip Visalli brought Paolo out from Sicily to take charge of the business’ pastry when it opened in March.“I found the idea of a traditional Italian restaurant, patisserie and café in a bustling suburb very attractive. In many ways working there makes me feel like I’m still at home,” Mr Zanotti said.

The most important skills that pastry chefs need to have are creativity, patience and passion.

“You need to be organised and detail- orientated as making pastries often requires several components that must be assembled individually and then brought together to create the final product. You need to be always on to it and keep up with the latest culinary trends and this I believe can make you even more creative,” Mr Zanotti said.

Fabien Berteau, Park Hyatt

Spearheading a Sydney pastry revival is Park Hyatt executive pastry chef, Fabien Berteau.

The French-born pastry chef has kept himself busy organising Sydney Pastry Club meetings as he awaits major refurbishment of Park Hyatt Sydney to be completed later this year.

Having worked in Paris before coming to Australia six years ago, Mr Berteau said he was surprised by the lack of communication within the industry.

“Before this club we would know the establishment, but (not) who was in charge. I used to work in Paris and the quality in Sydney is very high, that’s why I was very surprised because (there’s) not so much contact,” he said.

“Australia is becoming more interesting with (its) food. It’s become a growing market. If you have a passion to share the knowledge you can with the club. You can learn something new about pastry.”

Mr Berteau said experienced pastry chefs should provide a broad picture of the industry to younger generations.

“It’s important to get more people to work in the industry because it is very hard to find good workers. So that’s why we are very ‘on-duty’ to (provide) a good understanding – it’s hard work, it takes 10 years to be chef, the salary is not very high, but it’s more about the passion and relationship with the customers,” he said.

The 30-year-old and the seven pastry chefs working under him are looking forward to returning to work soon at Park Hyatt Sydney.

John Rally, Manta Restaurant

2011 has been a promising year for Manta Restaurant executive pastry chef, John Ralley.

The 26-year-old pastry chef is currently preparing for the World Pastry Cup alongside team mates Andrea Reiss, Justin Yu and Buddika Gunawardana. Under the tutelage of captain Dean Gibson and specialist guidance from internationally acclaimed pastry chefs, Mr Ralley hopes to make Australian history with a win at next year’s Asian qualifiers.

First learning his fundamentals at regional New South Wales’ Gumnut Patisserie before spending time in England, he is now running the cakes and pastry team at Woolloomooloo-based Manta Restaurant while rubbing shoulders with some of Sydney’s best pastry chefs. His recent food demonstration at the latest Sydney Pastry Club, a milk chocolate and Grand Marnier mousse with orange brulee and poppy seed macarons (pictured right), made it onto the front cover of Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living section.

Having being in charge of Manta Restaurant’s pastry kitchen for more than six months with four pastry chefs under him, Mr Ralley is looking for ways to transform the menu with sugar decorations and showpieces.

“I came in here to try to change things, add a lot more high quality (desserts). Specials have taken over the menu,” Mr Ralley told Australian Baking Business.

He uses Callebaut and Amedei from Italy for his chocolate and works with Manta’s chefs to find the right balance for the menu.

“You always get a lot of input from those guys as well about what works and what doesn’t. “I usually just try to go with the seasonal produce… as long as it’s in season we always try to do something with that and make it as nice as possible.”

Manta Restaurant will be opening a new Alexandria location in September, which will offer Mr Ralley an opportunity to create and run a pastry and cake offering from scratch.

“I love to do sugar and learning as much as possible. I’m trying to do a lot of sugar decorations on my food,” he said.

While not running a professional kitchen, he has been meeting with Hamilton TAFE teacher, Dean Gibson to train in chocolate and sugar work while working on his showpieces.

“He’s awesome, I really like Dean I get along with him really well and he’s a great talent. I learn a lot from him,” he said.

His advise for pastry chefs looking to one day run their own kitchen is simple.

“Just keep going, don’t quit,” he recommends.

Darren Purchase, B & P Sweet Studio

Darren Purchese has formed a culinary partnership with Ian Burch that fuses science with sweetness to create a truly unique retail dessert experience in Melbourne.

Inside South Yarra’s B&P Sweet Studio customers may find edible art, a half-chocolate and half-salted caramel spread, exaggerated raspberries, coconut caviar, smoked chocolate, or even a chocolate flower garden. Three hundred different ingredients fill the length of one wall for customers to smell, taste and test, an essential part of Mr Purchese and Mr Burch’s belief that the senses will play an increasingly important role in the production and enjoyment of food in the future.

“This is an area we will be looking closely at and one that is attracting great interest in the culinary world at present,” Mr Purchese told Australian Baking Business.

“We see that with further research it will be more commonplace in the kitchen for chefs to excite and enhance taste with the use of our remaining senses.”

The duo take pleasure in updating and expanding traditional dessert-making techniques and concepts. They respect tradition and use it as a platform to create new and exciting desserts and techniques. According to Mr Purchese, the only way to improve on a recipe consistently is to know all of the processes involved in the production of the recipe and the effects each step has on each ingredient.

“Only with this knowledge can positive steps be made in enhancing or improving on previous creations, otherwise it is an inexact science. While new and positive discoveries can be made with random experimentation, we believe it is more controlled through our methodology,” he said.

Being a pastry chef is all about learning and discoveries and the pair use detailed records of previous experiments to constantly strive to improve their products. As an example, their chocolate spread has been tested and retested for sugar density to allow even and smooth spreading straight from the fridge.

“Our customers are very trusting and open minded as a whole and we have been lucky enough to be allowed to create some pretty unusual flavour combinations thus far,” he said.

Pastry chefs must have a degree of basic culinary ability coupled with training in classical techniques, Mr Purchese said. Once a pastry chef has reached a senior level in their career, there is then a shift towards creativity.

“All of these skills are imperative for success but they do not appear overnight, they must be worked at,” he said.

Customers and the general public at large are more knowledgeable about food than ever before. There is a demand for innovative and thoughtful food products that force chefs to stay ahead of the times and strive to improve, excite and innovate as never before.

“It is exciting for us to be at the forefront of this movement and we hope to be pushing the best European and American pastry chefs in the coming years,” Mr Purchese said.

In June the duo participated in the 5 Chefs Dinner for Starlight Australia, working alongside Dan Hunter, Frank Camorra, Shane Delia and Jason Camillo to impress 500 guests for charity.

“We were humbled to have been asked to donate our time for this event. We were invited to meet some of the children at the Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and their spirit and humour were so inspiring to us. We enjoyed every minute of the experience and hope to be asked again next year,” Mr Purchese said.

Perrick Boyer, Le Petit Gateau

Macarons leapt off the patisserie counter and sped down the streets of Melbourne on a Volkswagon Mini Cooper in June.

Behind the wheel of the car was RACV Club and Le Petit Gâteau executive pastry chef, Pierrick Boyer, who was attempting to promote the qualities of macarons to the public. The pastry enthusiast created the high-speed edible automobile with the help of Melbourne’s ‘macaron team’, a group of foodies that “got hooked” on macarons and helped to organise last year’s Melbourne Macaron Day.

“(The macaron car) was fantastic. With the Melbourne macaron team we promote macarons, not any (pastry chef) in particular. It was about the industry,” Mr Boyer explained to Australian Baking Business.

When not speeding down Victoria Street in a gastronomic gas-guzzler, Mr Boyer is in charge of pastry and cakes at the inner-Melbourne RACV Club and Le Petit Gâteau. The pastry chef has a wealth of international experience, gained in many of the world’s most prestigious venues, and has worked alongside some of the most internationally renowned chefs including Alain Ducasse, Christophe Michalak, Pierre Marcolini and Stephane Leroux.

Despite the fun of spreading the macaron message on the streets of Melbourne, an executive pastry chef’s typical day usually involves hard work and time management, Mr Boyer said.

“To be an executive chef is the last step to being an owner. It’s passion, dedication and years of experience. I would say at least 10 years,” he said.

With 20 pastry chefs and apprentices working under him, being an executive pastry chef for Mr Boyer means handling paper work and a budget while being able to step in to any role in the kitchen with full confidence.

“The more experience (you have), the better it is. For me it is about knowing what that product is about. So all the chefs have to know what everyone is doing or to know how to do it, so if someone makes a mistake, I can explain why and making sure the standard is achieved,” he said.

The RACV Club has a banquet facility, a bistro, buffet, conservatory and a pastry showcase. Pastries on offer include croissants, danishes, cakes and fruit punnets for all outlets. Le Petit Gâteau is focused on small and large cakes, wedding cakes as well as wholesale.

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