What are the stakes for the teams?
Mainly to adapt to their environment. The most important stake on the contest day is to be better than the other participants, to be excellent. Everyone has their place during the tests and must give their very best.
You have been recognised by your peers several times. What is your perception of the contests, how do the different specialties nourish each other?
I discovered the world of contests as a participant and now as a judge. These are essentially personal challenges, you follow your gut, express your personality. You need to call on your best expertise before a panel of judges who are known for the quality of their work, some of whom are models. Taking part in a contest is something you decide to do when you are young to assert your character, boost your self-esteem, and prove to yourself that you can do it. But you mustn’t forget the pleasure aspect either, in particular for the jury.
When exchanging with pastry chefs, we come to understand that the quest for the right taste is most important. What are your own expectations?
Indeed, personally I also place the emphasis on taste. Some say that the aesthetic aspect can come before taste, but I am convinced that you should never ignore taste, it must always be predominant. As a judge, it is important to remember this. You must focus on your taste buds and the emotions you feel. The art of our trade is also to highlight the products, I will be paying attention to that too. The beauty of the contest also lies in discovering different countries, identities, cultures.
What memories do you take away from the European selection?
I was impressed by Scandinavia and their approach to gastronomy. I haven’t had time yet to visit any northern countries, but I enjoyed discovering their avant-garde, raw, pure, nearly designer-like approach.
Pastry is becoming modern, moving away from tradition. What are your observations over the recent years?
Pastry is evolving fast. The first observation concerns the technical side, with new tools and means that enable us to push the limits. Over the past ten years things have changed at a very fast pace. I see that in chocolate-making for instance, for the moulds. We also now have one-shots. The habits and values have also evolved. Respecting the products, returning to local sourcing, you can feel that this is becoming the norm, people are more aware. Customers are attentive in this respect.
You decided to live your passion rather late, and you have received several awards over the recent years…
Indeed, the latest ‘Best Pastry Chef’ award I received at the Grandes Tables du Monde, was presented to me a short time after Christelle Brua and it is an honour for me to succeed her. She has inspired my career, my training. I am fortunate to be able to perpetuate women’s status in this trade. I am pleased with the choices I made. I have acquired a certain maturity that enabled me to follow this path knowing exactly what I wanted to do.
Do you think that people begin their careers in the food trade too young? Is this topic a taboo?
I think it’s a complicated issue. Many of us believe that when you’re 15 years old, it is impossible to decide what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. At that age you are still carefree and should enjoy this. Nowadays, we continue to tell our youth that they don’t have the right to make mistakes. I started on the wrong path, but it was not a mistake, I knew what I wanted to do at that time. Others are more certain in their choices, coming from families of bakers, chefs, pastry chefs. Youth must run its course in due time.
You often speak at schools to exchange on your trade…
I did my apprenticeship when I was 20. I have always supported my colleagues, keeping in mind the importance of exchanges and transmission. When I left school, my teachers kept in touch with me and I sometimes returned as an examiner, I have always maintained this connection with the younger ones. It’s my turn now to be there for them, exchanging with them in school about their careers, but also with the teachers and parents. Many still wrongly believe that co-op experience leads nowhere, and our trades are wonderful and create great vocations.
Three key points to describe your idea of a good restaurant dessert?
I would say: clarity, highlighting the products, creating emotions through taste… That’s my idea of a great restaurant dessert.