lundi 11 juillet 2011

At the Bristol hotel "pastry lab": the sublime sweet style of Laurent Jeannin

As a true pastry artist, Laurent Jeannin has been creating the sublime desserts of the Bristol palace over the last 4 years.

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Précieux NyangboLaurent Jeannin’ famous « Précieux Nyangbo » at the Bristol hotel (Picture : Bristol Hotel)

His starred pastry path led him to the Crillon hotel, then the George V, and eventually to the Bristol.
2 years after he joined the Bristol, this mythical institution (one of the establishments ranked palace as a palace in Paris) gained its 3rd star in the Michelin guide. The most prestigious recognition he has won to date... The same year, he won the « Pastry Cook of the Year » prize in the Champérard guide.

Being usually prone to discretion, Laurent Jeannin opened up his "pastry lab" to all of you, sweet teeth.

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Chatting with Kevin ChambenoitChatting with Kevin Chambenoit, Food & Beverage Manager at the Bristol hotel

Laurent Jeannin, one often says pastry is a very requiring sector. How can you explain this passion?
It is certainly hereditary, my mother being herself passionate about pastry. When I was a kid, I used to read through her dessert books. I still can remember a mouth-watering picture of Gaston Lenôtre fraisier (sponge cake, butter pastry cream, and strawberry) coated with almond paste and decked out with a splendid scarlet sugar rose.

You create everyday 3-starred desserts. How did you reach such a professional level ?
First of all, it is a matter of willingness.
Moreover, I have been well trained since my very first internship. In Vichy, the “Valade” pastry shop - where I was an apprentice – was the kind of establishment that does not exist anymore. Absolutely everything was home-made, even the decoration (hand-painted), the coating or apple compote. I learnt a lot there.
Furthermore, I always want to keep on learning.

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Sugar crust cooked peachLaurent Jeannin gives a new twist to salt crust cooking with its sugar crust cooked peach (being plated up on this picture)

Could you sum up your main experiences ?
I have worked in many establishments, and have been fortunate to work with guys who were running far ahead!
For instance, I joined Fauchon immediately after my apprenticeship and Pierre Hermé was still the pastry cook at that time.
Then I learnt about restaurant pastry at the 2-starred restaurant of Enghien casino.
Right after my military service, I joined the Crillon as a kitchen assistant. There, I worked my way up and eventually became Christophe Felder deputy pastry cook. The Crillon hotel was at that time an extraordinary "talent pool", with Gilles Marchal, Yves Camdeborde, Christian Constant, Jean-François Piège, Christophe Adam, Eddie Benghanem, among others…
I was then hired by the George V that was about to give its restaurant a new style after being closed for 2 years: We rapidly got 2 stars in the Michelin guide. There, I brought the "flavour variation" concept into fashion.
I then started working as a consultant, mainly for Japanese hotels. Then, Eric Frechon, the Bristol hotel chef hired me to replace Gilles Marchal. This was a huge challenge! We received our 3rd star 2 years later.

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. During the lunch rushDuring the lunch rush

Could you describe your pastry style?
My desserts are fresh, "gourmand", and aesthetically pleasing. Besides, at the Bristol, we serve a "fore-dessert" prior to the dessert, so as to refresh the guests' palates and to whet their appetite !
Above all, I never favour beauty to taste, and I value French local products.

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Mango, cherry, and violet fore-dessertOne of Laurent Jeannin fore-desserts – exquisite mango, cherry, and violet trilogy
What is your creation process ?
Everyday life constantly inspires me. A meeting, an object, a flavour … may influence my desserts months or even years later.
For instance, I discovered an old record player that has inspired the deco of the Caramelised Brazil Nut, light milk foam, iced milk Jivara dessert
I usually create my dessert very spontaneously, and I daresay naturally. I am especially productive when faced with challenges and … deadlines !

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Record playerLaurent Jeannin record player
Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Caramelised Brazil NutCaramelised Brazil Nut, light milk foam, iced milk Jivara dessert (Picture: Bristol Hotel)

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Cherries Dessert
Laurent Jeannin prepares the deco of the delicious ” Cherries ” dessertLaurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Cherries dessertThe ” Cherries ” dessert being finalised
Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Cherries dessert about to be servedThe “ Cherries ” dessert about to be served (in the background: the magnificent “frozen Madagascar vanilla”).

What are your cult pastries ?
The creation that has the greatest media coverage is the « Précieux Nyangbo ». It was designed as a jewellery case, the dark chocolate sphere sheltering a cocoa and gold stone. This dessert highlights the bitterness and ground taste of Ghana cocoa.

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Nyangbo dessert
Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Nyangbo dessertNyangbo elaboration, with a hot round cake tin – clever isn’t it ?

I like creating surprising textures – light and melting like this nitrogen dessert, with lychee, pear, lemon, and rose flavour I developed for the Women’s Day.

Lastly, I work closely with our waiters, to turn desserts into true shows.

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Manjari chocolate origamiAn inexpressible « Manjari Chocolate Origami » [see the influence of Japan], a show for both the eyes and the palate combining chocolate and coconutLaurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Manjari chocolate origamiThe Origami dessert is completed in front of the guest …

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. CounterThe counter where pastry cooks plate up the desserts and hand them to the waitersLaurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Raspberries and ginger, souffléed meringueThe gold sheet is hand-dropped on the "Raspberries and ginger, souffléed meringue" dessert

What are the products you don’t like ?
None! I am not a picky pastry cook! Haribo sweets, Nutella, Mc Donald’s strawberry sundaes … These sweet things are certainly not particularly healthy but they do have a unique taste that reminds us all of childhood memories!
For instance, in one of our desserts, we seasoned strawberry balls with powdered Fisherman’s Friend – the strawberry-menthol combination was a feast both for kids and grownups!

Pastry is both a matter of creation and management. How many people do you manage ?
I manage a 16-people team. In addition to the gastronomic restaurant, my team elaborates the desserts of the 114 Faubourg restaurant, all breads, and viennoiseries, plus the room service cakes, as well as the ones for the tea room.
Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. With his teamLaurent Jeannin and his team, during rush
Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. CroissantsSuperb croissants that are just about to be baked
Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. Fresh home-made bread sticksSuperb home-made bread sticks

What are your hobbies when escaping from your pastry lab ?
I admit I have little time outside my pastry lab ! When possible, I like to visit contemporary art museum. I also work out at my local gym.
This year, I took part to the pastry Meilleur Ouvrier de France jury. I will also chair the French dessert championship jury.

5 secrets about Laurent Jeannin

• He speaks Japanese
• He is not well organised in his personal life!
• He particularly recommends Fabrizio’s ricotta-speck focaccia (21 rue Poncelet – 75017)
• Do you remember Christophe Felder incredible book "Le Chocolat de Christophe" ? Laurent was one of the contributors.
• If he was not a pastry cook, he would have been an architect

And like all great pastry cooks…
• He will never unveil his guests identity, being as discrete as a corporate banker
• He notices every detail, as the following quote is pinned in the Bristol lab.

Laurent Jeannin at the Bristol Hotel. QuoteSpecial thanks to Laurent Jeannin and Chloé Lepoivre for their welcome, and to Christelle for the translation.

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