Florian Bellanger Interview

February 2009

Philosophy on Pastry:
Make customers happy. Make cakes as light as possible, not too sweet. I became a Pastry Chef because I always have been in love with sweets (I could live on sweets only!) and for me a great cake is a cake that I want to eat another slice of. As a chef, I also feel that is important to help pastry students by giving them knowledge and also transmitting the love of this profession. Working in pastry brings so much satisfaction and pride. I always encourage young chefs to keep going. It is a tough job, long hours, etc., but it is so rewarding. It is more than a job, it is a passion.

Formerly of:
Le Bernardin, La Maison du Chocolat, Fauchon Paris, and Fauchon Qatar.

Training:
Ecole de Paris des Metiers de la Table. I graduated in pastry after 2 years, trained there for another year specializing in chocolate and ice creams.

Awards:
One of the "10 Best Pastry Chefs in America " by the Pastry Art and Design (2 years in the row - 2003 and 2004). Nominated Best Pastry Chef by James Beard Foundation (2000 and 2001).

Essential Tools:
Hand tool: A small stainless steel spatula with a wood handle given to me by my parents when I was 16 years old and decided to train in pastry. I use this spatula all the time; it is always close to me and it is the only hand tool I am very protective of. I never lend it to anyone. It followed me everywhere for 20 years. Once I forgot it during an event in California. When I got back to New York, I became so nervous, I called the hotel 20 times to make sure they find it, and insisted they Fedex it back to me.

Heavy equipment: A whipped cream machine that works by an “Air Injection and Ozone” system. The whipped cream is so light, 20% more air in it than with the regular whipped cream machine. Mousse made with it becomes light like a cloud, and the Ozone system makes it bacteria -free.

Favorite Ingredients:
Chocolate - it is fun and versatile. It can be used in any recipe and 99% of consumers love it. We take chocolate for granted, but when you think of it, it is just amazing how a bean discovered 500 years ago became such a great product.

Top Tips for Dessert Success:
1) A great combination of flavors (2 to 3 flavors maximum in one dessert; otherwise it gets confusing).
2) Light and creamy (work on the texture and make sure the entire dessert is not too sweet)
3) Have something crunchy in your dessert.
4) Decoration has to be edible and has to be part of the dessert. (If you think the decoration on your dessert is not part of the dessert in taste and texture, that means it is useless.)

Mentor and Pastry Hero:
My mentor who became my friend and played a big role in my professional life is Pierre Hermé. I have a great respect for him as a professional and also as a person. He helped pastry to become recognized as an art all over the world. He is like part of my family.

Emerging Trends in Pastry Arts:
I see a big trend emerging especially for pastry boutiques. Cakes are getting modernized. The pastry chefs in restaurants are starting to look at desserts like cooks look at a dish, meaning they are cooking fruits à la minute, and using ultra-fresh product. We are far away from the crème brulée done 20 years ago in restaurants. Pastry retail stores will eventually become that way also. You see pastry shops emerging all over the city, and the cakes sold in these retail stores are getting much more interesting.