CHEF ROMAIN FOURNEL
Romain started in an apprenticeship at pastry school at the age of 16. After 5 years of school and receiving 3 diplomas in Pastry and Bakery, he moved to the South West of France, Biarritz, to become a Pastry Chef for the company Henriet. Having always wanted to travel, so after 3 years he decided to pursue opportunities that would take me abroad. he moved to Las Vegas, NV in the United States in December 2009 to work for Jean Phillippe Patisserie as a Training Manager. He worked 8 years there, eventually working his way up to Assistant Executive Pastry Chef. In May 2018 he was presented the opportunity to move to Nashville, TN to take on the role as Executive Pastry Chef for the JW Marriott Nashville, which would be the 1st Luxury Hotel in the state of Tennessee. Currently, at the JW Marriott Nashville, he has a team of 17 employees. Oversees the pastry production for the employee café, banquet functions, a steak house, a restaurant serving all 3-meals each day, and a Pastry/Coffee Shop.
What inspired you to enter the world of pastry?
Growing up I always made cakes with my mother and grandmother. I think this is where I started to love the world of pastry. At the age of 9, when I was at home by myself baking, my goal was to bake a cake and have it ready by the time my parents came home. At 15 years old, I did my first stage in pastry and that was the beginning of my pastry career.
From where do your inspirations for new creations come?
These days it’s really easy to get inspiration from all the great chefs around the world who share on Instagram. My goal when I create a pastry/dessert is not only providing a wonderful taste, as it is really important, but also to get a great combination of flavor and texture. After that I like to stay simple and minimal in the decoration.
Who in your life has been the biggest mentor/inspiration in your career?
I have couple of people that have been an inspiration for me.
First, my parents. They have always taught me that when you want something in life you have to work for it. They were not easy on me sometimes, especially my father, but it makes me who I am today.
Second, I will say my first boss, Olivier Derand. It is because of him that I learned all the basic pastry knowledge that I have today. He was a good teacher, fun to work with, but also very strict to make sure I learned the proper way.
Third, I will say all the people I have worked with in my past. Some of these names you may not recognize but these chefs did the work to get what they have today and in turn I have gained a large amount of diverse knowledge from them. Nicolas Chevrieux, Jean Phillippe Maury, Nicolas Blouin, Florent Cheveau, Claude Escamilla, Jerome Ducrocq, Amaury Guichon and the list can go on.
What is your most famous dish?
I am not sure I have one but by the numbers and feedback we get from our Pastry/Coffee shop I will say the Blueberry Cheesecake and our take on Carrot Cake.
What is your earliest dessert memory?
A Chocolate Éclair that was made in a pastry shop in the small village I grew up in. This is the same pastry shop where I started my Apprenticeship.
What is your favorite type of pastry to make? To eat?
For me, making a pastry is not for myself but for the guest. I am always looking to find the right balance of texture, flavors and sweetness to surprise our guests.
I truly don’t have a favorite pastry I like to eat. I do enjoy all desserts that are built with different textures and has a flavor profile that is not too sweet.
If you could pass one bit of insight down to another chef, what would it be?
Organization. For me this is the most important thing in our industry especially in big production. If you are not properly organized, you will run to a lot of daily problems.
What is your favorite kitchen tip?
Do it Again. No one is perfect, so in turn we will all make mistakes. Learning will come from these mistakes. We learn what not to do and sometimes even find a way to fix it and use this in another application.
What is your favorite Valrhona Chocolate?
The Araguani 72%!
When pairing with chocolate, what is your favorite flavor combination?
In our pastry market, I created a Chocolate Peanut Bar made with Alpaco 66% chocolate sponge, Hazelnut Praline Crisp, Soft Peanut Caramel, 72% Chocolate Mousse and Hazelnut Whip. This is a great combination. I also like the combination of Banana, Coffee, and Orange these flavors pair well with chocolate.
What is your favorite perk of the Cercle V program?
I am just starting the program, so I have not been able to decide on my favorite perk. I have heard so many great things.
When & how did you hear about Valrhona for the first time? / When & how did your “relationship” with Valrhona start?
I had heard about Valrhona before but started learning more when I started to work at Jean Philippe Patisserie since they were using it for every item they produced that used chocolate. I learned to work with this chocolate there and found out its great quality and taste. It is great to bring this amazing chocolate flavor to our guests.
What is the Corporate Social Responsibility initiative you’ve implemented and are the proudest of?
Teamwork. Due to the nature of teamwork, your job will constantly change. You will probably be a member of many teams, encompassing many different personalities and working styles. You need the flexibility to adapt to different situations. You will be able to accomplish this if you have the appropriate skills. This mean you have to be continually learning, whether it’s through continuing education, using Learning Logs, training programs or reading. By learning how to communicate or manage more effectively, you can work more effectively in teams.
Who do you follow on social media?
I follow far too many to list, but I have listed below a couple of them and my favorite thing from them:
Yann Couvreur; love his style in pastry
Francois Brunet; love his bread creations
Thierry Atlan; love his macaron
Marcus Lemonis; he is not in the pastry industry, put I love the entrepreneur.
What do you like to post on social media?
All my creations around pastry, chocolate and what I am currently working on perfecting.
I have couple of them: Blaizou, RORO, Frenchy
Celsius or Fahrenheit?
I have to use both in the United States, no preference.
Cake or Tart?
I discovered one in Nashville called “Henrietta Red”
Here in Nashville you have a lot of cool spots to get a snack:
Baked on 8th for cookies and cake
D Andrew Bakery & Café for Danishes
Las Paletas for Popsicle
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen for Gelato
Wine or Cheese?
Wine. Also, I know it is weird but I am a French who is not a big fan of cheese.
Coffee or Tea?
Favorite kitchen tool?
Paring Knife because you can do a lot with it. Like peeling/cutting fruit, carving and sculpting chocolate, or bringing some last touches to pastry decorations.
Craziest delicious flavor combination? I am not the type of chef that will create crazy flavor combinations. The guests that will taste your cakes/pastries must be able to recognize to components and know the different flavors to enjoy it.