Antonio Bachour grew up in Puerto Rico and was hooked on pastry from a young age, thanks to a childhood spent in his family’s bakery. He went on to graduate from Johnson & Wales, and then spent his first few years honing his trade in Puerto Rico as a pastry cook at Sand Hotel and Casino and Westin Rio Mar before moving on to the Ritz-Carlton in San Juan, where he was pastry sous chef for two years. 2001 found Bachour States-bound, in Miami Beach, as pastry chef at Talula. And soon he was trying his hand at Italian delicacies at both Devito South Beach and Scarpetta in New York and Miami.
In 2009, Bachour was asked by KNR Food Concepts to be a part of the opening team at the W South Beach Hotel, and particularly Solea. Shortly after, he took over responsibility for all pastries for The Trump Soho hotel and its restaurants. He now splits his time between Miami and New York. This year Dessert Professional Magazine selected Bachour as one of their “Top 10 Pastry Chefs” for 2011.
Interview with 2011 Pastry Finalist Antonio Bachour of The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort — Miami, FL
Katherine Sacks: Why did you decide to enter the International Pastry competition?
Antonio Bachour: I first saw the competition online at StarChefs in 2010. I saw a lot of pastry chefs and realized the quality of the competition. Worldwide everyone knew about StarChefs, about the Congress, so I decided to compete.
KS: And your overall impression?
AB: It was a great experience, a lot of equipment I never used before. I think that the sponsors the product the product it was great.
KS: Let’s talk about the competition. What was your inspiration behind your White Chocolate Crémeux with Lychee Granita pre-dessert?
AB: The inspiration was that I love lychee, white chocolate, grapefruit and Campari. I always have a dessert with these flavors on my menu. I wanted a dessert that was light and fresh. I made this dessert just for the competition; when I sent in the recipe I had never done it before. I mean, I had used the flavors but in different components. When I opened the restaurant, I put it on my menu.
KS: Tell me about your plated dessert. Why did you decide to go in the direction of Pistachio Cream with Lemon Curd, Pistachio Sponge, Bread Croquant, Candied Pistachio, Yogurt Sauce, and Green Apple Sorbet?
AB: The pistachio was the main component. I had been working with microwave sponge cake, and I had worked for two years to develop a new recipe with paste. I like the composition of lemon, pistachio, and apple. That, for me, is one of my favorite combinations.
KS: Entremets are a pretty unusual choice for a pastry competition challenge. How did you approach that round?
AB: It was good, the thing is my glaze didn’t work, I put my entrement in the cooler, the next day was very messy, I tried to fix it the same day, otherwise was great I made nice bonbons, my showpiece was nice, the cooler was at 50°F too warm, the glaze was messy, I tried to fix it but it was too late.
KS: How do you prepare for a competition like this?
AB: I started a few weeks before, working with each recipe. That’s about it. Every week I worked on the recipe, practicing to perfect the timing.
KS: What are the three most important things in competing?
AB: For a young pastry chef it’s great to go to StarChefs and have interaction with other pastry chefs. It’s also great to meet all the judges when you go so you have more experience. You see something new. It’s inspirational. The most important thing, though, is to meet a lot of people, including purveyors.
KS: And what advice would you give this year’s pastry chefs?
AB: Get prepared and practice all your recipes before you compete. Every pastry chef should know the fundamentals, keep focused, practice, and go with passion and a great attitude. It’s not too hard; the timing is great since you have a few hours for prep, which is a lot of time. The timing is not really an issue. Chefs should just concentrate and not get stressed, and they will be fine
KS: Tell me about working at the St. Regis. What are you up to now?
AB: I’m still working at Bal Harbour in Miami Beach. We have two restaurants there: one is Atlantico, which is modern Spanish cuisine, seafood, fresh oysters, banquets, and service. It’s very busy, and I’m very happy.
KS: Where will we find you in five years?
AB: I don’t know yet, I don’t know where you can find me next week. Maybe I’ll open my own place, maybe I’ll retire, I can’t tell you right now. I’m happy where I am, though I get a lot of offers every day. I do have a cookbook coming out next year.