Winner Pastry Profile: Pastry Chef Ron Paprocki of

Winner Pastry Profile: Pastry Chef Ron Paprocki of
December 2010

Ron Paprocki is of that rare chef breed that comfortably, naturally straddles fun and serious discipline. It might be because he came to pastry relatively late, having tasted some of the real world—and developed a sufficiently thick skin—in his previous profession, landscape design, before trading in his garden tools for pastry tools at the age of 31. Call it life experience or a quirk of personality, it allows Paprocki to keep his cool, and even crack a few jokes, while creating sophisticated desserts in a market positively glutted with pastry chefs.

He might have come to the game late, but training at Germany’s Elisabeth-Knipping Schule in Kassel, and completing his formal apprenticeship at Café Alheit, gave Paprocki a rock solid, Old World foundation in the techniques and practices of the pastry arts. But however serious his schooling, and however seriously Paprocki took it, the chef didn’t lose his lust for fun, imagination, and play. It has endured the rigor of European training and continues to show up in his desserts, even in the austerity of fine dining.

When Paprocki moved to New York he became head baker and assistant pastry chef at the celebrated Financier Patisserie. Not content to let his pastry knowledge stagnate, the chef attended a chocolate sculpture seminar the following year at The French Pastry School under master chocolatier Jean-François Castagne. “Learn everything you can, be exposed to everything you can,” Paprocki advises. “The older you get, the older you get.”

In 2005, Paprocki helped develop and open the Sacha Bakery/Restaurant in the Meatpacking District, serving as pastry sous chef and further honing his repertoire. He joined the opening team of Gordon Ramsay at The London in the Fall of 2006, where he’s been drawing on the classics and incorporating innovations of modern pastry ever since.

Pastry Competition Interview with Pastry Chef Ron Paprocki of Gordon Ramsay at the London - New York, NY

Francoise Villeneuve: What was the inspiration behind the pre-dessert?
Ron Paprocki: The challenge of creating a fine-dining pre-dessert is something I’m used to. I do it every day, so I was comfortable in this round. My intention was to invoke a cocktail. The gin gelée, macerated cucumber and celery ice cream came together almost like a gin and tonic.

FV: Tell me about your plated dessert.
RP: I built my dessert around the Wisconsin cheese Les Frères mousse. From there I married classic flavors. I made a fig and olive oil cake, which was complimented by with sage, pink champagne reduction, candy-striped figs, and cognac ice cream.

FV: Entremets are a pretty unusual choice for a pastry competition challenge. How did you approach that round?
RP: I had so much going on with rounds one and two of the pastry competition and attending the Rising Stars Gala in New Jersey that I didn’t prepare. I didn’t think I would make it beyond plated desserts, so I didn’t have any supplies ready for the third round. When I found out I made the cut, Ian [Gresik] and I had to hop on a train and go to my apartment to pick up cake rings and molds. From there, we went to my kitchen in midtown to grab more supplies. The third day was an exercise in shooting from the hip.

FV: Anything turn out differently than you envisaged?
RP: I really didn’t expect to go to the final round, but once I made it I thought, “now that I’m in it, I have to win it.”

FV: How do you prepare for a competition like this?
RP: We knew most of the pantry ingredients in advance.

FV: What was your favorite moment from the pastry competition?
RP: Collectively, everyone was so friendly. I really enjoyed interacting with the other chefs. It was refreshing—not at all like reality TV, where chefs are competitive and evil. Everyone was friendly and talked back stage. I made a lot of friends.

FV: Were you nervous when you heard who the judges would be?
RP: The caliber of the judges was overwhelming—in a good way. To have Albert Adria as a judge was fabulous. I wasn’t prepared to have judges walking around with a stop watches and clipboards, watching every move. That brings out the shakes.

FV: What advice would you give a pastry chef interested in entering next year’s International Pastry Competition?
RP: The bar has been raised. This year was interesting because there was no measuring stick. Next year there will be a lot more people involved. No one knew about the cash prize this year. People with a broader range of experience will enter for 2011, so it will be much more of a challenge.

FV: What did you do with the prize money?
RP: Put it away for safe keeping.

FV: What’s one thing you would have done differently?
RP: I wish I would have prepared more. And I wish I would have paid closer attention to my plate-up time in the second round. I almost ran out of time because I miscalculated the timing on the blast freezer. I wish I would have plated the dish nicer.

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