“We should go back to basics.”
We speak to Frank Haasnoot in the Netherlands, where he once again has a permanent place after traveling around the world. He has worked in New York, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Taiwan, among others. An interview with a restless soul, top pastry chef and entrepreneur in heart and soul.
“Yes, I can't sit still for long. It must move forward. I am always looking for new challenges, new cultures and of course new flavours. How am I put together? Well, I am a perfectionist, driven and creative. These are all things that a pastry chef and entrepreneur should have in them, I think. In my private life, I'm actually kind of the opposite. Then I am very relaxed, relaxed and let the reins loose a bit. It is a matter of finding a balance between work and private life.”
“I got into the patisserie world through my family. My uncle has a restaurant and in my younger years I started earning a little extra. Maybe I wanted to be a cook then and my uncle said, 'If you're not quite sure about your choice yet, do a patisserie for a year or two first. That will come in handy in your job as a cook in the future.' And once I was in the business, I was immediately hooked.”
“An ingredient that you can work very artistically with is chocolate. My favourite! You can decorate with it, make sculptures and process it in all kinds of ways. But patisserie is very versatile. In addition to chocolate, you have pastries, ice cream and dessert on a plate. There are so many facets that make the profession exciting.
If I have to make a choice, I would like cake and pastries. There is a lot of technology involved. It must be able to stand in the display case for a while and the customer must be able to transport it home. You can also go very wide: from baked patisserie to mousses, and that with different structures, textures, flavors and colors. I prefer to use seasonal products whenever possible.”
“I think we have become a bit lost in the profession in recent years. We work too much with frozen products. We should go back to basics, with local, seasonal products. That brings variety and it is of course great fun to work as a pastry chef. Launch a different product in your showcase every month! It is strange to see strawberries on a cake here in December. It's not great at all in terms of taste. Okay, you can say the customers are just asking for it. But you can also use other things, right? Apple, pear, carrot, beet… you name it.”
Experience in the store
“Any advice for novice pastry chefs? Everything depends on where you sit. In Amsterdam or Antwerp you can charge different prices than in a small village. You will also have to display a different type of product in those cities. And maybe make choices. You should not want to offer everything, because then you need a lot of people to make it all. Just create tasty, honest products. A delicious cake that cuts beautiful points, isn't that great? Also important: not every city is waiting for standard patisserie, because there may already be three or four places for that. I think it is very important to get to know your customers. Are they forties or twenties? They have different needs. Social media is a good tool for this. Be active in determining your target audience."
“Personally, I especially miss the experience in a number of Dutch and Belgian pastry shops. The artisanal character, the layout of the business… you name it. Take a look at how the big names and brands are doing in Paris, because we can learn a lot from that. If you run a luxury business, your products should also look luxurious, including the box.
In Taiwan we put the cakes in a kind of hatbox: a hardcover that went nicely over the cake. So you not only have a cake, but also a gift. A gift that you give to your wife or girlfriend. People don't just go to a star restaurant for good food. So you have to approach a luxury pastry shop in exactly the same way.”