Freshness and pure flavours make a difference

Last September the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie was organised in Lyon. MOF pastry chef Stephan Glacier looks back on the event: “We are definitely returning to the basics. There is again plenty of focus on craftsmanship, flavours and techniques, a trend I am very pleased about!”

Freshness and pure flavours make a difference

Frenchman Stephan Glacier, owner of Pâtisserie et Gourmandises and coach of the French team at the Coupe du Monde, notices that in international professional competitions, the focus on flavours, textures and techniques is beginning to take precedence over the interest in artistic expressions. “In the past, we saw that people were trained to make the most amazing ice sculptures, for example. However, you still need to present delicious ice cream and pastries too! At the end of the day, our profession is still about clear flavours, interesting combinations and tasty structures.”

Fainting flavours

And in this craftsmanship is where Glacier sees an important challenge. “Seventy per cent of the pastry chefs in France is buying frozen viennoiserie. This means they are forgetting how to make a croissant or a chocolate pastry themselves. The result? Flavours are become fainter and the range of products no longer stands out, even when you compare them with supermarkets. After all, they are using the same boxes, right? However, supermarkets offer these products cheaper, they have longer opening hours and bake several times a day. No wonder bakers are losing the battle. My croissants have a slightly different shape and weight. They are baked on the oven floor and filled with my home-made praliné. Indeed, a bit more expensive. But my customers are willing to pay for it: they taste the difference.”

Instagrammable

Glacier also sees a divide emerging in the pastry world. And he does not necessarily think that is a positive trend. “On the one hand, you have the classically trained pastry chefs with their own business. On the other hand, you have the social media patissiers. Instagram stars, who know perfectly well what a product should look like and who are just as passionate as I am about what they do. The big difference is that they do not have to make or sell pastries. They show pictures of a unique product and have no idea what it means to make it, rationally.”

Forced to automate

The risk is that many young people with an interest in patisserie most of all want to become Instagrammable. They are less interested in competitions or titles, they just want to show something nice, instantly. “We shouldn’t make this job look better than it is. It is physically demanding and requires a lot of manual work. Many young people drop out, sometimes even during their education. As a result, there’s a lack of hands and manpower in production and we are increasingly forced to automate.”

Craftsmanship

Glacier wants to turn the tide. He wants more students in the pastry schools, where they are taught the basics of the profession. “Craftsmanship is going to make the difference,” says Glacier. “The key to today's consumer is making your own creations as much as possible. Lemon cake from home-pressed, organic lemons with the zest still in them. Apple pies with home-made compote and freshly peeled apples. Fresh cream, butter instead of margarine and correctly dosed vanilla. Consumers are not just interested in price. If you make concessions on the quality or price of your raw materials, you will slip further down into the middle ranks. In that case, consumers will definitely start comparing the price for one and the same product. If the quality and taste are excellent, people are truly prepared to pay more. Freshness and honest ingredients will always make the difference.”

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