What is it about our industry that we compete against each other in order to gain the media spotlight? Has MasterChef brought out our competitive edge by making us fight to get onto television, encouraging us to think that our work is better than others? Are there any other ways that we can encourage each other and find support within this hard-loving industry?
I know many pastry chefs who share similar goals to me: to be creative and have our passion showcased through our work. To satisfy our customers’ tastebuds and at the same time find personal satisfaction in the work we do. There have been few opportunities, outside of our kitchens, for pastry chefs to meet as equals, display what we do and learn from each other. That is, until a group of pastry chefs in Sydney recently stepped up to form the Sydney Pastry Chef Club.
The clubs’ members meet every few months in a friendly and informal environment, allowing networking and education to take place. At each club meeting, pastry chefs ‘revisit’ a traditional dessert theme that showcases their skill and imagination. Leading up to each meeting, pastry chefs will design their idea and prepare a creation to share with others.
Thanks to Fabien Berteau, executive pastry chef at Sydney’s Park Hyatt and Elerig Liguet, sales manager at Deshel foods Sydney, three Sydney pastry clubs have been held this year.
The first meeting was in February with a ‘native Australian’ theme held by Fabien Berteau at the Park Hyatt. The second was in March in Orchard at the Hilton Hotel, held by Aurelien Menuet from Glass Brassiere Hilton.
When I attended the Orchard meeting, I managed to meet the technologically savvy Richard Hawke, based in France, who showed everyone how to caramelise white chocolate. The committee then asked me if I was interested in hosting the next meeting at The Bathers’ Pavilion in June. Naturally I accepted. I was excited by the prospect, picked chocolate as the themed dessert and organised for several guest speakers to attend.
The June meeting started with a presentation from F Mayer Barry/Callebaut distributor, Gary Willis. He gave a presentation on cacao plantations in Brazil, the Hunter Valley chocolate festival, his experience in the industry and the benefits of working with Callebeaut/Cacao Barry ambassadors – some of the best pastry chefs of the world.
Dean Gibson, a teacher at Newcastle TAFE and current Team Pastry Australia captain, was also there to discuss his team, how to make chocolate centrepieces and to give advice on entering competitions. Dean was himself a competitor for Australia at the 2010 Asian Pastry Cup with Adriano Zumbo, coming fifth in the competition, only one spot shy from qualifying for France. This year he is eager to take on the challenge again, but instead of physically competing he is training and sharing his knowledge with the next generation of up-and-coming pastry chefs. The current Australian team is made up of Buddika Gunawardana, John Ralley, Adrian Pagano and Justin Yu.
When the time came for me to talk, I provided insight from my career, having travelled and worked in London, Paris and Chicago. I have had the opportunity to learn from Pierre Herme, Queen Elizabeth’s pastry chef, Kathern Boyden, and Julie Sharp, who received an award for UK’s best pastry chef and is currently the development chef for Cacao Barry in England. I spoke about the amazing team at Bathers’ Pavillion and the great things we do, from cookbooks, consultations for the Orion cruise line, a café, restaurant, high tea, kiosk and many functions throughout the year.
I also spoke about the upcoming (at the time) Hunter Valley Chocolate Festival, held 6 August, where I conducted a chocolate degustation of savoury and sweet items with Nick Vivan from the Hunter Valley Gardens.
After the presentations finished the real fun began. Each guest pastry chef got up to showcase their chocolate creation, talk about the techniques employed and the elements involved. Then it was taste-testing time, the best part of the day.
The day was a huge success and a lot of that is due to the amazing minds of Fabien and Eleridge, who have shown incredible passion and determination in building a team of pastry chefs that are educating, networking and motivating each other.
Pastry chefs interested in joining our next club meeting can contact me at the Bathers’ Pavilion to learn more.