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SPECIAL REPORTS

Recipe for Success
The Sweet Life!
Monday, 27 June, 2011, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Jacob Justin
When a child walks in for a meal, it looks at the dessert station and there's an instant sparkle in its eyes! In fact, a lot of adults share a similar intimate moment, wherein for a few brief seconds they look eye to eye at a dessert and declare it theirs! After which, they zero in on how much they want to eat in the earlier courses of the meal. Most diners make sure that they have enough space in their stomach to relish a good dessert! And even when they are full, you still watch them indulge on a scrumptious dessert and it's this look of utter satisfaction on their face which drives a pastry chef!

I started my career in the year of 2002 with The Park Hotel, Chennai, after my basic kitchen training. It was only when I moved to Dubai to work for Sheraton Dubai Creek & Towers, that I learnt the real art of confectionery and bakery. I learnt that a pastry chef is just not a baker who knows how to measure correctly, and mix and blend ingredients and make fluffy bread. In fact, a pastry chef is an artist who needs to spend more of his time working on creating delicate pastries and desserts and artistically plating them. He should be organised and detail-oriented. Creativity & patience are his strengths. A dessert should not just taste good. It should be visually appealing as well.

Art of temptation

Over the years, I have learnt that because of its culminating position in the menu, the dessert must complement, and even compete with, all that has gone before it. In order to tempt the appetites of guests at the conclusion of a long meal, the dessert presentation should be exiting and attractive. Indeed, the art of dessert cookery is very much the art of temptation.

As against popular belief, there's more to a pastry chef than just making all the dessert components - ice creams, garnishes, sauces, cakes, tarts, puddings, cookies and so on. As the Pastry Chef at Courtyard by Marriott, Ahmedabad, my duties also include discussing menu plans with other chefs to make sure that the dessert pairs well with the other courses of the meals. After all no dessert should be considered outside the context of the meal in which it is to be served. I also test and evaluate new pastries, desserts and bread recipes as there is no end to the creative ways in which desserts can be made. Also an evolution in the dessert menu over a period of time is a mandate. I also prepare a budget for the pastry department of the kitchen in conjunction with the management and the other chefs which is when a chef also becomes an accountant and estimates the costs in his kitchen. It is very important for a chef to understand the economics of the revenue his kitchen drives against the costs he incurs. Apart from this, my most important role is to be a mentor and a trainer to the apprentice and junior chefs in the pastry kitchen and to educate them in kitchen hygiene & classes on pastry and dessert making.

My advice to budding pastry chefs will be that if you decide that you want to be a baker or a cook, it's not something to take lightly. There are many different positions in the kitchen of every hotel. Each position is equally important to ensure the customer has the best experience possible. But it's a pastry chef who gets the privilege of being one of the most creative chefs in the kitchen and it's him who makes the last impression on the customer mind before he leaves the restaurant. So ultimately it boils down to the magic in his hands that can make the diner love his restaurant or hate it! It's a huge responsibility and will give you the best rewards as well. And always remember a meal should always end with grace and flavour!

(The author is pastry chef, Courtyard by Marriott, Ahmedabad)
 
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