How do you view your role as President of Honour of the Pastry World Cup?
Most of all I’m very proud. When Pierre Hermé asked me to take on this function, it meant that what I do, my work, is good. It shows his faith in me and shows that the contest has faith in me too. I’ll do my best! I want to be available to do everything right.
How do cooking contests enable different ecosystems: artisans, sectors, trades to communicate and exchange?
With contests you move away from your comfort zone of everyday regularity. You’re looking at a ‘less pleasant’ type of comfort that pushes you to surpass yourself to achieve things you didn’t think you were capable of; this is a reflection of our trades. When I think of contests, it brings to mind sport, surpassing oneself and progressing. I have always enjoyed contests and took part in many when I was younger. They contribute to the evolution of our trades.
Your career doesn’t follow a ‘comfortable’ path. You moved away from classical pastry and chose a more unconventional approach. Is it easy to preserve one’s professional identity at a time when all the codes in pastry are changing?
I was born a pastry chef. I have always loved my work thanks to my family, my grandfather in particular. I see myself as a pastry chef who loves his job. I’m convinced that you shouldn’t worry about all that, simply remain true to yourself, move forward by setting objectives. All the energy you can experience in a contest, I channel it into my career each day by setting challenges for myself of course, but also for my colleagues in my business …
Your pastry creations are immediately recognizable: creativity, technical excellence, visual signature. How do you nourish this process on a daily basis?
It all starts with a form of respect, respect instilled by my family. Respect for others of course, but also toward nature, the farmers. As for creativity, I have a sort of funnel approach. There’s a lot going on in my mind when I’m thinking of a dessert, so I apply a sieve and skim off anything that’s not useful to keep only the simple, pure, and elegant ideas, no sugar or chocolate decoration, no logo.
This simplicity is a search for sobriety in a way. You are attached to the idea of environmental responsibility. How do you keep on track to reach these objectives?
I have only three shops with different identities. I’m not looking to expand my business with something like fifty shops around the world. That’s certainly not something I would enjoy. The more you want, the more you consume and the more you destroy and create waste and have losses. I have never thrown away a cake in my whole life. All our packaging, including cutlery, is recycled. I work closely with my producers; I know how they work and how their animals are treated for example. I’m not perfect, but the objective is to be aware of what we can do and how we can do it.
Sugar is something that we all have in common, in the form of childhood memories for instance. In our exchanges with different pastry chefs, the ‘right taste’ is often mentioned as part of the expectations of the contest. What is your take on this?
I think you must dare to return to your childhood. Simple, classical. There’s a saying that goes: ‘something beautiful attracts people, something good makes them come back’. This is true not only for pastry. When I design my cakes I never mix flavours. I want people to understand what they’re about to enjoy from the very first spoonful. I do my best to keep the taste as raw as it was when nature gave it to me. I don’t want to mix different flavours. When I founded Fruits, I was tired of getting pears and having to cut them up into all sorts of shapes, square, round and so on. So, I worked with different varieties, I wanted to cook them differently, season them, working more and more like in cookery. By using simple seasoning, I respect mother nature and what she gives me.
Interview by Hannah Benayoun
Photography : Calvin Courjon