The award-winning chef reveals what it’s like to make chocolate and sugary confections for a living—and why Le Cordon Bleu is an inspiring place to teach and learn.
What first sparked your interest in pastry and culinary arts?
I grew up in the town of Vannes in Brittany, northwestern France. Most of my family is in the culinary world, so it was simple enough for me to go into pastry. One uncle is a pastry chef, another is a cuisine chef, and yet another is a baker. I also have fond memories of making rice pudding with my mother, using some orange skin to add a unique flavor.
Where and how did you hone your skills?
I studied with an employer for two years, starting when I was 15, and I went to school at the same time to get my CAP diploma, which is a certificate for a pastry, chocolate, ice cream, and candy maker. After that, I worked at the two Michelin-starred Laurent restaurant in Paris.
Generally speaking, I feel honing skills comes with hard work more so than talent. You also need to think in a different way and have a different view of what you do; being different is creating the wave and not following it.
What do you think are key ingredients for being a good pastry chef?
Be curious, a hard worker, and enjoy discovering other cultures and food.
Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
Inspiration comes from everything I find around me, like texture, nature, and odor. My senses are always alert to lead me to new ideas and creations.
What are some of your signature pastries/chocolates, ones you’re most proud of?
I'm proud of making pastries but that’s not my ultimate goal. I’m more proud of all the student I used to teach who now have a pastry shop or a restaurant and who are giving a better culinary education to people around them.
Do you have a favorite ingredient/flavor to work with?
Vanilla. It comes with different countries with different flavors and identities.
What may surprise people about being a pastry chef?
Being a pastry chef is one thing but to be a passionate pastry chef is another. A passionate chef is going to accept working overtime and preparing for Easter, Christmas, New Year’s and other celebrations. We have to sacrifice a big part of our own personal time to give the best to others.
You’re making sweets all day. Do they lose some of their appeal? Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Sweets are my lifestyle. I’m eating pastries everyday, and it never feels guilty. Nothing is necessarily bad for me; the secret is to eat the right amount and stick to natural ingredients.
Tell us about ice carving. How did you get involved with that craft?
I studied with chef Armando Baisas from Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa in 2008 and I’ve had a passion for ice carving ever since. I work all the time to improve and be better at my sculpture.
What attracted you to Le Cordon Bleu?
I joined Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa 10 years ago; moved to LCB Paris in 2010 to work on the MOF (Best Craftsman in France) exam; and came back to LCB Ottawa last year. I find LCB Ottawa to be really charming and appreciate that professionals treat you like a member of their family. It’s an honor for me to be there in this beautiful house.
What would you say to people who are interested in becoming a pâtissier (pastry chef), and why Le Cordon Bleu?
Most of the people drawn to the school come first to learn French pastry techniques and gain solid experience. Some want to change careers—perhaps they realize that the foundation of life is food and love. Coming to Le Cordon Bleu can give them the opportunity to embrace something they haven’t experienced before and to secure a new professional future.