Ramon Perez was born to chef-restaurateur parents, so his obsession with food started early. Perez began working in the kitchen of the well-known Napa restaurant Auberge du Soleil when he was just 12 years old. When his parents opened Citronée in Nevada City, CA, a few years later, he worked through all the positions in the kitchen there before he landed at pastry in 1998.
After graduating from high school, Perez attended the New England Culinary Institute. Immediately after graduation in 2003, he began work at Chef David Myers’ award-winning restaurant Sona. Throughout the next year-and-a-half, Perez moved through the kitchen stations while gleaning inspiration from Myers.
Following his time at Sona, Perez staged in the kitchens of Europe for six months where his drive and work ethic was tested daily by their rigorous schedules. He then returned to Citronée where he was responsible for the pastry creations of the restaurant and the offerings in the newly-opened bakery.
In the summer of 2006 he returned to Sona and shortly after was named pastry chef. As executive pastry chef, Perez oversaw the desserts at various restaurants within the David Myers Group. In 2012 he opened his chocolatier, Puur Chocolat, which he hopes will expand worldwide.
Interview with 2011 Pastry Competition Winner Ramon Perez of Puur Chocolat — Los Angeles, CA
Katherine Sacks: Why did you decide to enter the International Pastry competition?
Ramon Perez: I wanted to redeem myself from the previous year. I was pretty disappointed in how I did, so I wanted to come back and show I was better than that. The first year it was about the challenge. I wanted to get away from the normal everyday, and go back into the restaurant be better than what everyone else was doing.
KS: Let’s talk about the competition. What was your inspiration behind your Coconut Crémeux with Green Apple Gelée, Coriander, and Cucumber Ice Cream pre-dessert?
RS: I was basically trying to distinguish myself from other competitors, which is hard to do in a two-bite dish. I was trying to mix in refreshing flavors. In the restaurant setting I think I’ve always done a good job of going from the previous savory course, which is why I always put a savory element in my desserts. That’s why I put cucumber and matcha, which helps progress and lead the dessert.
KS: Tell me about your plated dessert. Why did you decide to go in the direction of Soft Madirofolo Chocolate Ganache, Black Sesame Praline, Pistachio Tuile, Chartreuse Gel, and Pistachio Ice Cream?
RS: For the plated dessert one of the requirements was to use the PreGel paste. Not to mention that both the chocolate companies were very generous in their donations, so I wanted to showcase the chocolate. I was really into black sesame, so I incorporated the nuttiness of the black sesame with the pistachio. I wanted to create that wow factor with the chocolate and I believe I did that with the chocolate sphere.
KS: Entremets are a pretty unusual choice for a pastry competition challenge. How did you approach that round?
RS: I thought I figured it out when I got to the third day. After I found out I was progressing, I asked if I could change up the recipes a little. The judges said no, so I went in line with the recipes I had submitted. With the showcase I had no idea what I would do. With the entremets I kept the flavors the same, but I just changed it up a little bit.
KS: How do you prepare for a competition like this?
RS: I practiced the recipes for the pre-dessert and plated dessert quite a bit, using a number of different variations on the plating and components. At one point I had matcha streusel and macarons on the plated dessert. Then I decided to add green apple. The coconut was frozen first, and then I changed it into a crémeux. I just made them just for us at the restaurant, and had plated them for two months straight.
KS: What are the three most important things in competing?
RS: Being prepared; it will help you stay calm. Definitely practice; the more you practice the more it becomes second nature when you are there competing. And taste every dessert; that’s why I switched around what I did so often.
KS: What did you enjoy most about the competition?
RS: It’s the camaraderie of the other pastry chefs. A lot of these pastry chefs I’ve never met before, so it’s a privilege to meet them and see what they are doing now.
KS: What did you do with the prize money?
RS: I saved the $5,000 for my shop as soon I find a space. I’m running an online chocolate shop, selling bonbons from around the world. But I’m also trying to find a location. I have a few ideas where I might do it.
KS: Where will we find you in five years?
RS: I hope to have my chocolate company up and running. I want to open locations everywhere: London, Tokyo, everywhere. I’m also working on an omakase-style dessert bar.
RecipesLychee Sorbet, Pineapple, Carica, and Eucalyptus YogurtCrave Brothers Les Frères Farmstead Wisconsin Cheesecake, Fig Gelée, Muscovado Gelée, Beet-Fig Sponge, and Salted WalnutsSoft Madirofolo Chocolate Ganache, Black Sesame Praline, Pistachio Tuile, Chartreuse Gel, and Pistachio Ice CreamÀ la Minute: Namelaka, Pumpkin Seed Streusel, Lemon Gelée, Muscovado Gelée, PreGel Krocco Peanut Arabeschi, and Lemon Ash Soft ServeThai Basil-Olive Oil BonbonsEntremet: Sacher Sponge with Praline Mousse and Coffee Crémeux Coconut Crémeux with Green Apple Gelée, Coriander, and Cucumber Ice Cream