Upcoming pastry chef shares her enjoyment of cooking
Natalie CHAN has immersed herself in pastry-making since her childhood and plans to establish her own restaurant in the future. Since the age of 16, Natalie has worked as a dessert trainee at a number of luxurious and award-winning restaurants, accumulating wide experience as a pastry chef. At the same time, she has been taking the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) course in Culinary Arts and Management in Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi) to receive proper professional training in the culinary arts.
In early August last year, Natalie and other students were given the chance to work for a week under the guidance of the Roca Brothers from the “World’s Best Restaurant 2015” and their visiting team at The Peninsula, Hong Kong. Their main work was to support the preparations for three Gala Dinners.
During this period, the students were assigned different tasks such as serving and decorating dishes, preparing desserts and cutting vegetables. They were also given the opportunity to learn skills from the famous master chefs like fine paring techniques, as well as witness their relentless quest for perfect food quality, their team spirit and their meticulous working attitude.
Thanks to her previous experience in a pastry kitchen, Natalie was deployed to the preparatory team for the dessert "Mandarin Flan", created by Jordi ROCA with mandarin liqueur, mandarin puree and Catalonia cream, shaped like a mooncake and accompanied by a special mandarin sauce and flower petals.
Natalie said the Roca Brothers were very meticulous with their presentation of dishes. Over 100 guests were hosted for dinner that night. For each and every dish, the Roca brothers demanded absolute consistency in their presentation, ranging from petal size to quantity, position and shape. "I was assigned to cut mango in pieces. Whenever the size was a little bigger, I was asked to re-cut it," she recalled. She could feel the passion and conscientious working attitude of the master chefs.
Jordi ROCA was honoured as “World's Best Pastry Chef”. He used Spanish-style ingredients as mandarin fillings for the dessert, which was shaped like the Chinese mooncake. His ideas have inspired Natalie to be more innovative in her dessert-making. By designing more creative desserts in the future, she hopes to share enjoyments with her customers.
In addition to this one-week workplace training, Natalie was selected to participate in an internship programme at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain soon. Natalie is greatly looking forward to working in this award-winning restaurant so that she can sharpen her culinary skills and enrich her knowledge of restaurant operations, bringing her closer to her dream.
“Desserts make me and my patrons happy. It is such a meaningful job to be a pastry chef!" Natalie said, adding that she has been determined to make it her career since high school. She earlier studied a hotel management course in Canada but found it could not really match her interests, so she changed her path to study back home at THEi, which offers the only culinary arts degree programme in Hong Kong. She believes that the management skills she has acquired from the programme will put her in a strong position to set up her own business in the future.
Those who are interested in culinary arts and management or feel inspired by Natalie’s story may consider enrolling in a similar programme to widen their practical exposure. Perhaps you will be the next master chef!