Page 40 - Pastry & Baking Magazine

Chef in Focus
Pastry & Baking
North America
In the two years I ended up spending at the Paris Hotel, I learned
ice cream, chocolate confections, plated desserts, sugar and chocolate
showpieces and how to be resourceful and always prepared for what
the next day might bring. Above all Jean-Claude gave me the gift of
organization – if there’s a key to success, it’s learning to organize.
With good organization, you can handle most weirdness a day might
throw at you.
Back in Seattle, you rejoined Essential Baking Company. During
your tenure at Essential, you lead Team USA to a win at the
Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in 2005. Did you think you
were going to win?
Jory Downer and Jeff Yankellow were the best teammates anyone
could ask for – we practiced one week a month for almost a full
year at S.F.B.I., and those guys are seriously sharp and dedicated to
craft. Didier Rosada, Tim Foley, Craig Pondsford were the coaching
behind the team, they were brutally honest and willing to help build
a team that had a good chance to make the podium. As it was, in
my mind I recall not thinking about winning but about our routine
and every little detail that lay before us. We were lucky to have a
booth at the competition that was set up well and everything worked-
not all booths are created equal and if something should break or
malfunction you were pretty much screwed – but we achieved our
goal and finished on time with products and a beast of a showpiece.
It was a hard wait, because there was some tough competition at
that Coupe. When they called out USA as the winner, it was almost
a moment of disbelief – Yes we had WON! It was all I could do to
hold it together and not sob! To think that more than 50 countries
worldwide try out for only 12 top tier teams to compete. What a
dream come true!
Do you still compete or is that chapter of your career closed?
In my position now, as a business owner and chef – everyday is a
competition, but for different stakes. Keeping a business successful
requires a lot of energy to be invested. And I also have a family
now, so they deserve all of my attention too, which means there
isn’t enough left over for competition. Finding a life-work balance
while chasing perfection of craft is hard enough without being gone
to chase another medal. I’m glad I did it – but I’m not looking to
go through that kind of schedule again.
Opened in 2006, Bakery Nouveau is more of a neighborhood
bakery with cookies, cakes, pain au chocolat, breads and pastries.
How’s business in light of the continued economic downturn?
When we opened in 2006, my goal was to give the community a
place they could be really proud of, and to build a culture around
the bakery where it would become a part of people’s everyday life,
Sunflour Rye
observations. By law you must have a visa to work, but in my case
I was on vacation so that did not apply. I was able to observe for
several weeks while touring and studying everything baking, pastry
and chocolate.What an eye opener! I studied several shops and took
lots of notes, and drew lots of pictures – at that time, photos were
not acceptable and if some stores caught you they would physically
take the film out of your camera!
Regarding the French approach – baking as a profession in
France is a way of life, not a career choice as it is often seen here in
the US. I must say the French approach is very methodical and
straight forward. Almost a sense of being a driven scientist and with
a demand for perfection! Here in the US we often see or hear about
the creative food celebrity – the one that rises fast based on something
unique, but who may lack discipline and comprehension of basic
ingredients. To be well known in France, it’s the opposite – you
really have to be on top of your game, not just uniquely creative.”.
You later relocated to Las Vegas and worked in the Paris Hotel
pastry kitchen for two years. What did you take away from that
Las Vegas is one of the toughest environments for (good) food
production, and being there was a tremendous learning opportunity.
Again, I had luck with networking – another good friend was
working for the pastry kitchen at Le Cirque in the Bellagio, and he
phoned to tell me that a new hotel, the Paris, was almost finished
and they needed qualified talent to help. I got the job and ended
up working as the assistant to Jean-Claude Canestrier, MOF, which
was incredible to say the least! I have never met such a master of
organization – the man could crunch production numbers and
direct people with such speed and demand it was a difficult to keep
up with him at times!
This was a good thing though – the full staff came on only two
weeks before opening, and we had to have everything stocked and
ready – not to mention train the staff! We had a lot of help up front
from Stanton Ho, from the Vegas Hilton, but still we basically went
to bed at midnight and got up early to work for
two solid months
there was a room for us to sleep on site between shifts instead
of going home).