Kinkead’s | Washington DC
Pastry Chef Hichem Lahreche was born in the North African
capital Algiers but it was his French mother’s natural and
precise cooking style that inspired an early love for pastries and
cooking. Professionally, he went on to study physics and excel at
professional tennis. And while the chemistry did not initially appeal
to him, this appetite for knowledge and commitment to the scientific
method was the beginning of Lahreche’s philosophy. A serious
car accident in the Canary Islands kept Lahreche from his dreams
of becoming a pro tennis player and took him out of university;
physical therapy for three broken vertebrae in Paris led to afternoons
spent at grand patisseries like Fauchon, Le Notre,
Laduree, and Dalloyau and an appreciation for
the beauty and preciousness of life through food.
In 1993, Lahreche followed his new found passion
and began an apprenticeship in a small patisserie and chocolaterie
in French-speaking Lausanne, Switzerland. The fundamentals learned
there prepared 28 year old Lahreche for a journey to the US and
a position at Michel Richard’s Citronelle in Washington
DC as a pastry cook. After two years of hard work with Richard,
Lahreche enrolled in L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg.
Upon Graduation in 1997, Lahreche became the pastry chef at The
Willard Room in The Intercontinental Hotel, working with Roland
Mesnier, Executive Pastry Chef of the White House. Lahreche followed
with an assistant pastry chef position at Red Sage in downtown
Washington where for four years he honed his craft alongside French
Pastry Chef Claude Perdriolat formerly of Le Lion D’Or
In March of 2002 Jeff Gaetjen and Bob Kinkead of
Colvin Run Tavern took notice of Lahreche’s flawless
French pastries and offered him the position of Executive Pastry
Chef at Colvin Run Tavern. His passion for learning brought
him back to school the International School of Confectionary Arts
in Gaithersburg where Lahreche earned certifications in mastering
Chocolate and Advanced Artistic Confections as well as Technologie
of Ice Cream and Sorbet Making. Studying under pastry greats Olivier
Bajard and Norman Love brought Lahreche back to physics, examining
the precise art of chocolate and ice-cream making through a scientific
Lahreche still gets as excited by tennis as he
does pastry: “I don’t like to watch the finals; You
know what to expect at the finals! I like to watch the new, battling
young players with passion and energy that are full of surprises!”
For young pastry chefs starting out, Lahreche advises balancing
new research and experimentation with gathering the lessons passed
down from generation to generation. As executive pastry chef at
Kinkead’s, a position held since February 2006, Lahreche’s
desserts reflect this philosophy, keeping in mind classic French
flavors and techniques but lightening and rethinking them for the
Modern American diner. In desserts like the Hazelnut Supreme, Lahreche
uses small touches like a few cubes of intensely flavored coffee
gelee and airy chocolate cremeux to rework and lighten a classic
TR: What restaurants that you
have worked in as a pastry chef have been the most influential?
Who are your mentors?
HL: Olivier Bajard is my hero.
He brought the world together through pastry, interpreting culture
through food, science and color. Laurent L’Huilier taught
me the importance of consistency. He’s a perfectionist. Michel
Richard taught me the passion of the profession and Bob Kinkead
taught me the business.
TR: What was
your Baking and Pastry training? Did you attend culinary school?
HL: Yes. Culinary school is
a great experience, but I would also suggest apprenticeships at
a young age, even before school.
TR: What pastry
or kitchen tools can’t you live without? Why?
HL: My offset spatula and paring
knife which I use to maneuver things sculpt and decorate.
TR: What are
your favorite ingredients?
HL: I like chocolate with hazelnut
in the winter and exotic fruits and citrus.
TR: What are
your top three tips for dessert success?
HL: Timing is everything. You
have to learn to be patient with pastry. Taste everything. Keep
your workspace clean. Communicate.
TR: What is
your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential
new line cook?
HL: Are you sure this is what
you want to do? Because it’s going to be hard.
TR: What are
your favorite cookbooks.
in the Kitchen, Michel Richard. He’s an artist, and an
amazing chef. He can also switch from pastry to savory very successfully.
Cookbook is also a great resource.
TR: What are
your favorite restaurants—off the beaten path—in your
city? What is your favorite dish there?
HL: Bistro Du Coin,
in DuPont Circle, has great moules frites and beer. I go to Pollo
Rico for spicy chicken.
TR: What cuisine
are you best known for?
HL: Modern French.
TR: What languages
do you speak?
HL: French, Spanish, Arabic
TR: What are
you favorite desserts to eat and to make?
HL: To eat, pralines and to
TR: What trends
do you see emerging in pastry arts?
HL: A blurring of the sweet
and savory distinction. I also see more creative use of salt, seasoned
salts and better salts.
do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
HL: In my boutique pastry shop
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