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Hichem Lahreche
Kinkead’s
2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC. 20006
(202) 296-7700

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Interview:
Tejal Rao: How did you begin your culinary career?
Hichem Lahreche: I studied physics in college and played tennis, but one day I dropped everything to be a pastry chef.

TR: What is your philosophy on pastry?
HL: I like a combination of salt, tenderness and crunchiness in pastry. I believe in tradition: passing recipes from generation to another and respecting a region’s culinary heritage.

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Hichem Lahreche
Kinkead’s | Washington DC


Biography
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 DC.

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 lens.

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 French dessert.

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Interview Cont'd
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.
HL: Happy in the Kitchen, Michel Richard. He’s an artist, and an amazing chef. He can also switch from pastry to savory very successfully. Kinkead’s 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 and English

TR: What are you favorite desserts to eat and to make?
HL: To eat, pralines and to make, pralines!

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.

TR: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
HL: In my boutique pastry shop or creperie.


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  •    Published: October 2006

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