The response to Planet J’s next workshop has been overwhelming. Slated for Monday, April 6, a master class with pastry chef
Samantha Nunes has participants from all over the state rushing to apply. Though all seats have already been taken, applications are still pouring in! Open to those between 16 and 20 years the master class will be held in Kulagar hall at Marriott Resort and Spa. In a chat with NT Kuriocity, the enthusiastic, vivacious and extremely talented, chef Nunes talks about the workshop, baking and a career in the industry
The workshop aims at giving the participants tips on making and icing cupcakes, chocolate making and icing a Baked Alaska. There will also be a question-answer session with chef Nunes, whereby participants can get all their baking queries answered and have their doubts cleared.
By Maria Fernandes I NT KURIOCITY
Q: Cupcakes, chocolates and Baked Alaska are on the agenda, why did you choose these items in particular?
Cupcakes are everyone’s favourite and it really gives one an opportunity to get creative, so they just couldn’t be given a miss. Chocolates are also easy to make once you know the technique and we also wanted to do something a little fancy and hence Baked Alaska came on the agenda.
Q: Why is Baked Alaska a tricky dessert to make?
Baked Alaska has a base of cake which is topped with ice cream and then meringue is piped over and this has to be flambéed. The trick is keeping the ice cream intact while finishing the meringue. Speed is the important aspect here.
Q: Chocolates are nearly every one’s favourite. What are some classic combinations in chocolates?
The list is long but here are a few, chocolate apricot, chocolate chili cinnamon, chocolate raspberry, chocolate salted caramel, chocolate lavender, chocolate crunchy peanut butter, chocolate tangerine and chocolate cherry kirsch almond.
Q: Making chocolates at home does not always have favourable end results. What is the formula for making good chocolates?
It all depends on how well one can temper chocolate. Chocolate is composed of lots of different little crystals. Well-tempered chocolate depends on the development and formation of these crystals and this in turn leads to a good chocolate.
Q: Which is/are some of the most difficult dessert/s to make?
I would say macaroons as you have to follow the recipe; a little excess moisture will ruin the entire dessert.
Q: How important is it while baking to use the exact quantities?
While cooking using the exact quantity is not always important but in baking one has to ensure that the exact quantities are utilised or else you will not end up with the desired product.
Q: For a home baker, what are the essentials that he/she should be equipped with?
For a starter, a good oven, baking trays, weighing scale and a cake beater are the bare essentials.
Q: What according to you are the factors that have led to the increase in the interest level of youngsters taking up culinary arts?
Mass media has played a very important role in this aspect and the exposure to this field is amazing. Today youngsters are well-versed about what a chef’s life entails, and also the fame one can achieve with a successful career. The best example is Master Chef; it’s a series every household watches. In addition, there are many more options for courses by different institutes.
Q: Can one start a small business from home after learning the basics in bakery and confectionery?
Yes, definitely, all you need are the basics.Then you can experiment and innovate all you like. Drive is another important ingredient.
Q: For those who have the talent already, should they go to culinary school and why?
Talent is not all that is required in becoming a pastry chef, and one must study the science of baking and cooking as well as sanitation standards, new skills, the financial aspects, etc, to succeed.
Q: What advice can you give to prospective students thinking about an education and career in culinary arts?
Well, it’s amazing and lots of fun, there’s something different every day. It’s as if you don’t have to work at all, but of course you have to be ready to put in long hours and give it your best shot every single day but it’s definitely no piece of cake.
Q: What factors should prospective culinary arts students consider when choosing their school?
Choosing the right school is the first step. Ensure you do your homework by finding out about the school, its recognition (if it is government recognised), the infrastructure, equipment and faculty and also check how well the previous students have done.
Q: How important is an internship?
Internship is the real deal, whereby you start to understand the basics of the job, the rules, and cleanliness that have to be followed and most importantly the experience.
Q: How is the job market right now for pastry chefs? What do you foresee?
The job market right now is really good, as you have numerous new starred hotels opening all over, hence the need for pastry chefs. This job market is expected to grow by 5.6 per cent between 2015 and 2022.
Q: You have been with the Marriott since the last three years, which is your area of specialisation?
I love everything I do but designer cakes are my all-time favourite. I love to get creative and work on various designs such as wedding cakes, kiddy cakes, Disney themes and various other themes.
Q: What are some myths about pastry chefs?
There is an old saying, ‘Never trust a skinny chef’, I kind of have to agree with this one, as there’s so much of tasting to be done, and delicious desserts all around which are hard to resist. Not every chef throws pots and pans as shown on TV, definitely not; I have never seen this happen.
Q: What are some of the skills that help all pastry chefs succeed?
Creativity is the most important skills needed to become a professional pastry chef. Pastry chefs need to be organised and detail-oriented. To be a good pastry chef, you need an understanding of the scientific principles behind your craft, how to measure correctly, how to mix and blend, specific food preparation techniques and how to make food visually appealing. In addition, people skills, management and business skills are also extremely essential.
Q: What role does presentation and creativity play in food matters especially in Goa?
I have observed that Goan’s look beyond the local platter and are passionate when it comes to matters of the kitchen! To cater to changing tastes, I consider it necessary to keep innovating ways of presenting food. After all, food business is not only about taste, but is also about presenting it creatively. The concept of mixing local flavours with international tastes is on a new high.
Q: Besides getting to taste all the goodies, what is the best part of being a pastry chef?
It feels as though you never have to work, it’s as if you’re going ahead performing a hobby, apart from the obvious scope for creativity that comes with being a pastry chef as there are arguably more techniques that can be applied to ingredients for desserts than any other section in the kitchen and you can be way more playful. Pastry is so specific, so down to science, technique, and dependent on a left-of-field thought applied to everyday things, that, once you’ve commanded it, people will love you. It’s like you exist on another planet to everyone else. Becoming a competent chef is all about hard work and dedication and the rewards are rich and priceless. When you enjoy your job and also get compliments from delighted guests, the hard work definitely pays off.
Q: What is your pastry philosophy?
My philosophy is to keep it simple, light and fresh, I use the best produce possible I can to honour the basics of my tradition. To me this means two things; firstly, wherever possible I use local ingredients in season. Secondly, I source the best quality I can, regardless of price.
Q: Which is the trademark dessert of the Marriott pastry shop?
The rich variety we have in desserts here at the Marriott never ceases to amaze. The soft centred chocolate chip cookie and chocolate walnut brownie with a caramel almond ice cream and caramel fudge I think are our very popular desserts.
Q: Can we look forward to some more workshops with Marriott? Yes, definitely.