What inspired you to enter the world of pastry?
I have an art background and I saw the opportunity to express myself artistically with pastry. I was already working in food & beverage and I felt comfortable in the industry, cooking and serving came naturally to me. However, I didn’t like working with raw proteins and smelling like a hot line at the end of the day. Now I smell like sugar and chocolate…=)I love the organization, discipline and accuracy in baking & pastry. There is no ‘by chance’. You either followed the recipe or you didn’t. There is plenty of room for creativity and innovation but you must respect the balance and details of a formula. Pre smartphone era I would look at magazines covering chefs and competitions in Vegas, France and Asia. I wanted to do what they were doing.
From where do your inspirations for new creations come?
Ingredients. I am most inspired by interesting and very high integrity ingredients. Ingredients with a story. Seasons of course with produce and availability. Looking forward to the seasons and anticipating the fruit is exciting. Having an art background I am inspired buy lots of different avenues of art including design, paintings, photography, music, etc. A lot of inspirations comes from the amazing team here at the resort. They are always pushing and asking questions. They are very excited to create and develop dishes, cakes, petit gateaux etc. I feed off of that energy.
Who in your life has been the biggest mentor/inspiration in your career?
I’ve been lucky to be touched by so many amazing people. I was raised by Jeff (Jean Francois) Lehuede, currently at Pelican Hill in California. He was my mentor into hotels and pastry shops. To this day he is in the back of my head. Chef Yves Fornier was my chef instructor at culinary school and now runs a beautiful bakery called The French Oven in San Diego. He gave me the fundamentals for pastry skills. Stephane Tread MOF Patissier taught me artistic approach to pastry, visual and aesthetics. There have been a lot of executive chefs and F&B directors (too many to name) who taught me the business sense, leadership and how to think outside of the kitchen.
What is your most famous dish?
Probably the Chocolate Crunch Cake, It’s been with me my whole career though in many different versions and formats. Brownie biscuit, a thin layer of hazelnut praline feuilletine, a thin layer of ganache, a layer of passion fruit cremeux finished with a whipped milk chocolate ganache and deco. It’s my go-to pastry, everyone loves it.
What is your earliest dessert memory?
My Mom’s fig bars. Chewy, a little salty, not too sweet and delicious. Satisfying.
What is your favorite type of pastry to make? To eat?
At work, I focus a lot of my time on chocolate and confections, bonbon, praline, panning, etc. I love the intricacies of boutique chocolate and confection work. To eat, I love standing in front of the gelato machine and getting fresh gelato as it’s being extracted, specifically our chocolate gelato made with our proprietary 66% blend. At home, with my daughter, we like to make baked fruit tarts. Pate sucre, frangipane and the best fruit available. Always best the next morning with coffee.
If you could pass one bit of insight down to another chef, what would it be?
Chef, this is a selfless business. Don’t forget that we are in the hospitality business, the business of making people feel good. We make pastry for personal celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, weddings etc. It’s about the guest experience. Cook, be patient. The word chef just means you are in charge, it means you are now responsible for other people. Enjoy cooking, baking and hone your skills. Focus on fundamentals, learn them, and own them, progress,
What is your favorite kitchen tip?
Clean and organize. You cannot do anything successfully in an unclean and unorganized environment.
What is your favorite Valrhona Chocolate?
Manjari 64% is nostalgic, it was what most colleagues in my generation remember being introduced to as a high-end couverture. Araguani 72% was my first experience cooking with a high percentage chocolate. It has a special place in my heart.
What is your favorite perk of the Cercle V program?
Connections, networking, technical support, exposure, friendships.
When & how did you hear about Valrhona for the first time? / When & how did your “relationship” with Valrhona start?
The pastry chef I worked for growing up in the industry only pulled Valhrona out for high-end events and in the fine dining room. Only he had access to it. However, the executive chef of the property would come in every day at 4 pm and grab a handful of feves and place then between a demi-baguette. It was Araguani 72%! I was curious seeing this. My relationship really began in Europe when competing in the Valrhona C3 competition in Germany and Spain. Never looked back after that.
Who do you follow on social media?
Professionally I like following the more classic/legacy folks in Europe like:
Patrick Roger, Pierre Herme, Jean Paul Hevin, Jacques Genin, Oriol Balaguer, and other close friends in the industry. Personally I like following hiking and art accounts along with some old skateboarding and punk rock folks.
What do you like to post on social media?
Realistic production and finished work we are doing here at the resort and in our boutique, Café Julie’s.
Celsius or Fahrenheit?
Cake or Tart?
Tart, baked fruit tart.
Papaya, Ko Pi Pi Thailand
I’m a sucker for a salty chip.
Wine or Cheese?
Cheese washed down with wine.
Coffee or Tea?
Favorite kitchen tool?
Bowl scraper. Universal resource many applications.
Craziest delicious flavor combination?
I did a dinner once for the Minister in Singapore, it was my last night in Singapore and I wanted to go out with a bang. We did a dessert with coconut, chocolate, pandan, and chili. It was a hard sell but it worked.