Dubbed the “Picasso of Pastry” by Vogue USA for creating the modern concept of Haute Pâtisserie, Hermé has elevated pastry to a work of art through his exceptional creations.
Pierre Hermé, voted best pastry chef in the world by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy in 2016, is a key figure in contemporary pastry. Nicknamed the “Picasso of Pastry” by Vogue USA for having created the modern concept of Haute Pâtisserie, Hermé has elevated pastry to the rank of a work of art through his exceptional creations blending unique and original flavors. And yet, at the origin of titles and successes all over the world, particularly in Japan, Qatar and Paris, Hermé is a modest and discreet man driven by passion and motivated by the desire to share his knowledge.
On the sidelines of the Valrhona event which aimed to explore and taste the future of pastry cooking – illustrating French creativity – Hermé, alongside Frédéric Bau and other top chefs from the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) – from Morocco to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) – met in Dubai. They had one goal: to solve the impossible equation in the world of indulgence: to combine good taste, beautiful and healthy pastries, while sharing the creative and sensible vision of Valrhona’s gourmet products.
Hermé spoke to Khaleej Times during his recent visit to Dubai.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
What inspired you to become a professional pastry chef? What do you like in your job?
I was born into a family of bakers. I am the fourth generation to do this amazing job. My father influenced me when I was only nine years old. Since then, I have always wanted to become a pastry chef. I started my apprenticeship in the late 1970s and it changed my knowledge of the trade I entered.
What is a healthy dessert? What are the challenges of making it?
It is difficult to make a dessert that is both tasty and delicious while having a reduced caloric intake. This requires critical thinking about the taste and balance of the ingredients used. It’s mental gymnastics and the process is interesting in the end.
You were awarded the title of Best Pastry Chef in the World in 2016. What do you think was the key to your success?
It’s a great encouragement to continue, to always anticipate and be different, to pursue the desire to do better in an original and creative way that is close to my heart. Valrhona has brought together chefs from the Mena region to share their vision of cuisine through the innovation of gourmet products while respecting the health of people and the planet. I’ve always wanted to question myself — in my life and in my work as a pastry chef, to break down the boundaries of our industry — like Frédéric Bau, whom I consider a pioneer in our field. Exploring new ways to always offer more gourmet pastries, but also being respectful of everyone’s well-being, is important today. It is a new line of work, of which taste remains the main axiom. It’s a new way of thinking about the pastry of tomorrow. I am very happy to have accompanied Bau to Dubai to bring this idea of Gourmandise Raisonnée. Like Dubai, which is in perpetual evolution, we had the chance to talk with chefs from all walks of life, who came to understand and participate in this pastry revolution.
Which of your projects are currently underway?
Several projects are underway. I’m currently working on the whole Christmas 2022 collection. I’m also working on Easter 2023. Thinking about the look, the taste, it’s very dense. There are no rules because every project is different and every project requires a different goal.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I work on seasonality (Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day) then on the inspirations that we put in our shops according to the seasons and periods. For example, last year, I made a whole range of cakes whose shape differs from what we offer in stores. I called the selection of cakes “nomads” and these were available everywhere in France. This idea came at the time of confinement. I thought to myself that if we could send cakes everywhere in France. We ended up selling more pastries than normal.
How do you choose the chefs who will convey your vision in your various boutiques?
Sometimes they are people who have worked in the house and who have evolved there. Sometimes they are people we have recruited from outside with interesting backgrounds. In the company, there is someone who works on the coordination of know-how, who supervises all the pastry chefs who work abroad and who accompanies them when they need training, advice, or when they have technical questions about ingredients and recipes. Daily coaching works in person or remotely and gives them the chance to achieve the best possible creation. There is no room for interpretation, the recipes and processes are extremely precise and clear. When faced with a challenge, they immediately know who to turn to, they are extremely well supported. I generally share with them, recommend without imposing and so it’s interesting to learn together. It creates a different bond to which I am very attached.