2016 South Florida Rising Star Pastry Chef Sylvain Bortolini of Faena

2016 South Florida Rising Star Pastry Chef Sylvain Bortolini of Faena
April 2016

Sylvain Bortolini has a passion for pastry on a global scale and an affi  nity for stars of the Michelin variety. Born in France, Bortolini felt he had to do something with his hands. He started with an apprenticeship in a boutique environment as a commis at Patisserie Laura in Mouans Sartoux, near Cannes. After two years building a solid pastry foundation, Bortolini furthered his craft at Michelin- starred La Bastide Saint Antoine under Christian Camprini. In 1999, Bortolini accepted a position with Frederic Poisson at two-Michelin star La Palme d’Or, rising to demi chef de partie over the course of a year. By 2003, Bortolini was designing the dessert menu for Michelin-starred L’Auberge de la Bonne Route.

In 2005, he moved to Mexico City to work with Chocolatier Jean-Marie Auboine, and when Auboine moved to Miami in 2008 to open the Fontainebleau, Bortolini joined him as assistant executive pastry chef. Two years later, Bortolini segued to the same position at the Bellagio in Vegas. He left as the executive pastry chef in 2015, the same year he won the World Chocolate Master (USA) competition and fi nished fourth at the international fi nals in France. Until recently, Bortolini helmed the pastry program of the Miami behemoth Faena. In sping 2016, though, he will move on to a new challenge in Washington, D.C.— still with an eye on getting those magical three letters after his name, M.O.F.  

Interview with South Florida Rising Star Pastry Chef Sylvain Bortolini of Faena

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?
Sylvain Bortolini:
I was born in France and wasn’t t a schoolboy, for sure. I had to find something to do with my hands. My pastry career started as an apprenticeship. I first worked in a boutique environment, then moved to Michelin-starred restaurants in the south of France that were plated dessert oriented. I started traveling, and when I was 24, I went to work at the Intercontinental in Mexico City. After four years, I moved to Miami to open the Fontainebleau. I was there one and half years before the economy crashed. Bellagio offered me a job, and Las Vegas was a completely different world. It was all about numbers and management, and I learned a lot. Everything we needed to be creative was there. I built that team for five years and used that time to compete.

CH: Who’s your mentor? 
Jean-Marie Auboine. I worked with him for a long time in Vegas. He mostly taught me to love chocolate. It’s my passion. 

CH: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
The weather. It’s hot and humid and reflects down into the kitchen. It’s hard to do anything with sugar or with show pieces. Also, finding good products, like fruit, and even citrus. California has better products. 

CH: What’s the hardest thing you’ve done in your career?
Competing for my M.O.F. Chocolatier. It’s two years of your life. You’re never home, you stay after work to train, you need money to ship off to France, and it’s a challenge to keep your job. You go to France and compete, and you have to prove that you still know how to work 12 hours a day for four days. It’s intense work in front of highly trained professionals. You compete in front of your mentors, and they watch every detail of your work, everything your put in the trash. There’s a kitchen jury, tasting jury, and presentation. It’s a lot of people with a lot of eyes on your work. When no one passed, we all cried, but then we’ll all go back in a few years. It’s a $20 to $30 thousand dollar investment over two years—it’s personal.

CH: What’s your five-year plan?
If I were to open a concept in the United States, I would make doughs, breakfast pastries, fancy pastries, and chocolate, but it’s difficult here. You have to be in the right city at the right time.