From humble beginnings when getting your hands on pastry was a real treat to becoming a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) chef, which is the equivalent of an Olympic gold medal in the world of pastry arts in France, Chef Stéphane Tréand is inspiring to many young chefs who want to make it in the tough arena that is the world of professional cooking. And guess what? We had the opportunity to meet him!
Chef Stéphane is here in Malaysia for The Asia Pastry Forum 2017, created and hosted by The Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia. This highly anticipated annual event includes an impressive lineup of award winning instructors, including Chef Stéphane Tréand, who are all here to teach masterclasses in various fields of pastry such as Japanese French Pastries, Petit Gateau, Sugar Displays, and a Molecular Cuisine Technique Masterclass Workshop among others.
Chef Stéphane’s own experience includes being executive pastry chef at The Four Seasons and St. Regis in California, named one of Pastry Art and Design’s “Ten Best Pastry Chefs in the USA” in 2007 and 2008, being the current executive chef consultant for Tokyo’s Occitanial pastry shop and running his own pastry school in California called The Pastry School. Phew! Talk about a resume! We were truly privileged to be able to sit down with this culinary artist and get his insights and advice.
Start with the Basics
In this world where social media rules, beautiful pastry as works of art have never been more popular. There are some truly stunning Instagram accounts showcasing pastry creations by chefs and home cooks alike. But have you seen those posts showing what they were trying to achieve versus what lopsided thing actually came out of the oven? “Nailed it” indeed. We personally love these posts because so many of us can relate!
While we all want to create, or recreate, pastry as art and showcase our work for the world to admire, Chef Stéphane’s one advice for beginners is to start with the basics. Once you know it like the back of your hand, you can go in so many directions and let your creativity soar.
Know your Dough
Knowing how to make a basic dough is very important. Know it well. Yes, it is possible to replicate a fancy instagrammable confection but you’ll only have the skill to do that particular recipe.
“If you know the basics, the fundamentals, it’s like music… If you know the notes, you can play a lot of different music,” says Chef Stéphane Tréand.
He recommends starting with the basic dough for the tarte, brioche, croissant and puff pastry. Know these well and you can go in so many different directions being only limited by your own creativity.
Something About Citrus
Once you have the basics down, then you can widen your horizons. While time does not always allow Chef Stéphane to experiment in the kitchen, it is something he loves to do. Working with exotic flavours particularly appeals to him.
“Something with mango. A mix of passionfruit, mango, coconut and vanilla mousse,” says Chef Stéphane. “Vanilla is a round flavour. Combined with acidity of a mix of exotic flavours, could be mango or passionfruit, with a bit of coconut; toasted coconut.” Can we just say that talking to Chef Stéphane is hard on our diet?
Yuzu, the Japanese citrus, is also a flavor he loves. “I did something in June, I tried to do a Walnut biscuit with Yuzu cream. That was really good. It’s something completely different. In France, walnut is very classic. Mixing with Yuzu was really nice. I want to dig a little bit more in this direction.” Whether it’s Yuzu, lemon or oranges, citrusy types of flavours in pastry works.
The Life of a Pastry Chef
As a young man, Chef Stéphane knew he wanted to work in the kitchen but it took him two to three years to realize that pastry was his calling. Being in the pastry line allowed him to utilize his love of art and drawing.
“I started when I just turned 16, which was 10 years ago. I’m kidding. I cannot believe it after so many years, a few decades, I’m still, and some of my friends, still very interested and very motivated. We are lucky to be doing something we like,” says Chef Stéphane Tréand.
After speaking to many Chefs, one thing we always hear is that it is a hard job. Passion and motivation is essential. Similarly, Chef Stéphane recalls his early years in training to be quite grueling. “It was tough. Crazy hours,” says Chef Stéphane. Being in culinary school was hard but working in a professional kitchen made school seem “like Disneyland”. He stuck it out realizing quite early on that he enjoyed the artistry.
“It’s fun work to do… But it’s not easy. You have to do the hours,” says Chef Stéphane.
Trust a Pastry Chef that Loves Dessert
There’s a saying that you should never trust a skinny cook. While that is debatable, without a doubt, we believe you cannot trust a pastry chef that doesn’t love dessert. After decades in the industry, listening to Chef Stéphane talk about pastry and flavours, we can say with certainty that his passion and love for pastry has not waned.
“I like an éclair, coffee éclair, or pâte à choux (cream puff). You don’t get tired of eating it,” says Chef Stéphane. “I eat chocolate every day.”
We love a chef who enjoys eating what he or she creates. Our tastebuds rejoice. Now where can we get that coffee éclair?