Interview with Chef Sébastien Rouxel of Per Se - New York, NY

April, 2005

StarChefs: Who or what inspired you to study pastry?
Sébastian Rouxel: I grew up in the business. My aunt had a restaurant in France. On Wednesdays we had no school so I’d spend that day at the restaurant from the age 12 or 14. She needed help so I joined her. I did a couple stages, first in the kitchen then pastries. I had to switch to pastry I liked it so much. I did two more years apprenticing and completed my military service at the president’s house in Paris.

SC: What is your philosophy on pastry?
SR: I prefer pastry because it is chemistry and math; an exact science. There is no measurement, no regiment in culinary. Pastry is less forgiving. People in New York are very difficult to please. You can play around with traditions and use your imagination and technology to come up with something new. Dessert is the last memory you have of a restaurant so it has to be good. Sweets make people happy.

SC: What do you enjoy about your job?
SR: What I love about this place is freedom. It’s great for me and my team. You have to keep your team interested since there is a lot of repetition in the kitchen. You don’t want to get bored.

SC: Who are your mentors? Who are your peers?
SR: Pierre Hermé, he changed the pastry world in the 90s. Ferran Adria, I love his philosophy on cooking. Some of my peers are Johhny Iuzzini and Sam Mason.

SC: What are your favorite desserts?
SR: Ice cream!

SC: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
SR: Executive pastry chef in my own pastry shop. My wife’s from New York. I met her in LA. She does wedding cakes and we just moved to Westchester.

SC: What do you think of the development of dessert bars?
SR: I think they’re great but don’t know if people would go on a regular basis. I think they’d probably go because they’re interested in different aspects of the pastry industry. I do want to open my own one day, but don’t have a concept yet.

SC: What are other trends you see on the horizon?
SR: Pastry is becoming extravagant right now. I think it will come down because of what’s happening in the world. People are spending more time with family.

SC: Where did you get your pastry training?
SR: In France the apprentice spends one week a month in class and three weeks in the kitchen. We learn food cost management, philosophy, techniques…you learn on the job.

SC: What are your favorite pastry and kitchen tools?
SR: Spoons, to taste, sauce, quenelle. To make quenelles you need to find the perfect spoon that’s deep enough to make them round and fat. Not long.

SC: What are your top three tips for dessert success?
SR: Color, texture and flavor. When the plate comes to the table, the color and look of plate attracts people’s attention, then they reach for the spoon and realize the texture and flavor.