An interview with pastry chef Frederic Bau at Shangri-La Hotel, the Shard

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st October 2014
Renowned chef and principal founder of the Valrhona Chocolate School, Frederic Bau, will be at Shangri-La Hotel, at the Shard, London, tonight to host an exclusive five-course Valrhona Chocolate Dinner in the hotel’s ballroom, Ren. FBAU_OCT2013A long-time proponent of using chocolate, throughout the evening, chef Bau will showcase unconventional ways of incorporating cocoa into modern European cuisine. Revered as the leading producers of gastronomic chocolate, Valrhona is a French luxury chocolate manufacturer based in the small town of Tain-l’Hermitage, a wine-growing district near Lyon. Founded by French pastry chef Albéric Guironnet in 1922, the high-grade chocolate has since remained the top choice for high-end kitchens and pastry chefs around the world. The Staff Canteen spoke to Frederic about his menu for the evening, using chocolate in his dishes and how even he gets it wrong sometimes! Why have you chosen the Shangri-La at the Shard to showcase your chocolate menu? The Shangri La’s Asian aesthetic very much appeals to me: I love their simplicity and consistency throughout all their properties.  Also, being a new opening in London, they were looking to work with Valrhona in order to offer their clients something completely unique and exclusive. You are doing five courses, what made you pick those particular dishes? We built this menu in collaboration with chefs Emil Minev and Nicholas Patterson at the Shangri La. I made some proposals and we discussed together the dishes they wanted to showcase to their clientele. Each course has been chosen to not only showcase a different Valrhona chocolate, but to demonstrate that the sweetness that you would expect from chocolate, along with the cocoa flavours, can be matched with a number of different ingredients, textures and flavours. The courses have been paired with particular chocolates because their flavour profiles mesh well.  For example seafood’s natural sweetness is enhanced by the biscuit and caramel notes of Dulcey, whereas the beef’s richness is cut by the spicy notes of spice of Xocopili.IMG_3027 Is it difficult to incorporate chocolate into all of your dishes? Have you ever got it wrong and it just hasn’t worked? If it was easy, it would not be interesting and I would not have done it! What is exciting in chocolate cuisine is the challenge it represents: how to create cohabitation between chocolate and a savoury ingredient knowing that the chocolate has to stay the protagonist of the dish, but also be at the service of the savoury ingredient it comes with. The hardest is to create complicity between the ingredients in order to generate pleasure and emotion. There are dishes I am experiencing for the past 12 years and still did not manage to get right. It is very exciting because it means that there is still a lot to do. Why do you enjoy working with chocolate? To me, chocolate is one of the most versatile ingredients in pastry, it is my Arturo Brachetti! Chocolate is like clay or marble for an artist, it gives me a whole pallet of possibilities. The different techniques create completely different dishes and the wide range of Valrhona couvertures gives endless possibilities. For example, since the launch of  Dulcey Blond Chocolate, I can work with four colours. IMG_3025What top tips do you give young chefs about using chocolate, when they come to your cookery school to learn the tricks of the trade? Precision, precision and passion. By its complexity chocolate is as technic as aromatic. A Valrhona Grand Chocolat is elegant and delicate, it is through our technic and gastronomic culture that we learn to respect it and sublime it in recipes. Is chocolate an ingredient that could be used more if people had the confidence to use it? Chocolate technic can be very scary for young pastry chefs, it is almost like a science. Although because it is so precise, it can also make it easier: Once you know the good practices, you just have to follow them! Finally, what is your favourite chocolate dish when you are feeling indulgent? Jivara Risotto, smoked pork and star anise is my favourite dish. This is why I chose to feature it in the menu for the dinner at the Shangri La.  Although this time I decided to use the latest milk chocolate launched by Valrhona: Bahibe 46%, pure origin milk chocolate from Dominican Republic. Because it is on the edge of dark chocolate which brings a nice bitterness although its creaminess brings a wonderful velvety texture to the dish.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st October 2014

An interview with pastry chef Frederic Bau at Shangri-La Hotel, the Shard