Chris Zammit, Pastry Chef, Camilleri Kitchen

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st June 2016

After being introduced to the intricate work of some pastillage flowers whilst at school, Chris Zammit immediately enrolled in a pastry class to learn more. Despite trying various areas of the kitchen, Chris’ always found himself in the pastry section of whichever kitchen he was working in at the time. Having worked for the likes of the Hilton, Raddison SAS in Malta and The Grand in Eastbourne, Chris has been part of the pastry team at Camilleri Kitchen since its opening in 2011. Having won numerous awards and accolades for his work across the globe, Chris will battle it out at Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie in Lyon as part of the UK Pastry Team 2017 which also includes Café Royal’s Andrew Blas as captain and Senior Confectioner at Nestle Product Technology Centre, Florian Poirot.

The Staff Canteen had the opportunity to speak with Chris to find out how he is feeling ahead of the UK Pastry Open, why discipline is the hardest thing for a young pastry chef to learn and why he’ll be spending more time with his family after Coupe du Monde.

Chris Zammit 

How did you get into the pastry industry?

It was more by accident than design. Whilst I was at Secondary School some friends showed me some flowers created with Pastillage, I was intrigued and immediately enrolled into a local Pastry Class.

Have you always been in pastry or have you worked in other areas of the kitchen before?

I tried my hand at various areas in the kitchen but I always felt that my real love was for pastry. It doesn’t matter where I worked, I always found myself in the pastry section of the kitchen.

How long have you been working for Camilleri Kitchen and where else have you worked?

I have been with Camilleri Kitchen since it formed back in 2011. Prior to that, I worked at The Hilton, Raddison SAS in Malta and The Grand in Eastbourne. In between working for them I also had various experiences at other hotels and establishments both in Malta and the UK.

You have obviously won numerous awards throughout your career, what one are you most proud of?

Having participated in various competitions from the USA to Russia, I am proud of all of my wins. However I think my most coveted award is the UK Pastry open 2015 where I walked away with the best chocolate showpiece and best tasting entremets. To make it to that stage was a dream come true for me. Before that I participated in various other competitions throughout London and elsewhere, ranging from Miniature pastillage to Butter Sculpture. Luckily I went home with gold most of the time.

How did it feel when you were told you had made the UK Pastry Team 2017?

Having been encouraged to participate in the UK Pastry Open 2015, I was a bit apprehensive of my capabilities to reach the required standards in order to cut a good figure… if not to make it to the team. But once I started on the project and had the idea and technique firmly in my head, I had high hopes for a good result.

Although I was not an automatic choice for the team after the Pastry Open results were out, having won Best Chocolate Display and Best Taste, I was confident that I would still be chosen for the UK Pasty Team. It felt like eternity until I finally received my confirmation from Martin Chiffers confirming my acceptance at a meeting in London.

As part of the UK Pastry Team 2017, how excited are you for Coupe du Monde?

We are all extremely excited. This is the moment for each member of the team to showcase their capabilities across various disciplines of the competition. We are also starting to feel the pressure of representing the UK and the need to remain one of the top countries in the Coupe du Monde. After last year’s team coming in sixth position, we are determined to go one step further and making it our focus to reach the podium this year.

How is the training going?

The training is going very well. Besides the work being carried out individually by each member of the team, we are also meeting every other week at our new training premises in London. The kitchen is all set up for our training needs and is fully functional which makes our work so much easier. I have to give my thanks to Olivier Batel at classic fine food, he’s worked incredibly hard in getting everything all set up for us.

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Signature dishes 

In the course of my work, I have created and am proud of many types of desserts but experience gained along the way and wider knowledge of the pastry industry has honed my skills to create desserts that are both eye-catching and very flavourful.

Desert island desserts

I think I would be happy to take the following entremets with me on a desert island!

Raspberry & Lemon: raspberry mousse, lemony jelly, almond sponge and Breton biscuit.

Mango & Passion Fruit: mango mousse, passion fruit cremeux, coconut docquoise

Chocolate & Pear Tart: pear and hazelnut tart, milk chocolate custard and pear compote

What do you make of TV shows such as the Bake Off and Tom Kerridge’s Crème de la Crème? Do you think these shows help popularize pastry?

Yes, without a doubt. With an average viewership of 13 million for Bake Off alone, it’s an incredibly popular show and it really encourages the viewers to try their hand at fairly easy recipes. On the other hand, Crème de la Crème is aimed at a more experienced audience due to the pace and pressure on the participants throughout the whole program, but I think both have had a really positive affect on pastry and getting it out there and becoming more popular.

How would you describe your own style?

I don’t think I have a particular style. I like to experiment with various pastry mediums as much as possible. I have created works ranging from the traditional to the modern, in pastillage, butter and chocolate. Every new project is a new challenge.

What would you say is your signature dish?

I tend to think that the entremets prepared for the UK Pastry Open 2015 would be my signature dish. I spent hours testing different flavours and ingredients untill I was satisfied with the right combination. I was very happy with the end result and I guess the judges were too!

In your opinion, what is the most difficult technique to master?

The life of a pastry chef is dependent on the mastering of various techniques in the kitchen. There are baking techniques, cutting techniques, cooking, preparation and decorating techniques. Each of these is important for a smooth running of the pastry. All modern kitchens nowadays have modern equipment that helps prepare and finish the pastry products. But decorating is one of the most important, so there is quite a few techniques to master.

What’s the hardest thing for a young pastry chef to learn?

Discipline. It is always best to learn under a professional pastry chef and although young apprentices tend to be very opinionated and have their own ideas on how to manage their corner, it is always advisable to curtail one’s enthusiasm until the basic techniques are well learnt.

Mango & Passion Fruit mango mousse, passion fruit cremeux, coconut docquoise

 Mango and Passion Fruit:

mango mousse, passion fruit

cremeux, coconut 

docquoise

 

What is the best advice you would give someone wanting to enter their first pastry competition?

Be prepared. They need to really learn about the competition and if you can it’s always a good idea to visit one prior to participating in order to understand at what level you need to compete with. I would also say to be confident in yourself and practice, practice, practice.

How important are competitions for pastry chefs to get their name out there and showcase their creations?

They are extremely important. Although with social media, it is easier to promote one’s name online. It’s during these competitions that a pastry chef’s real worth is assessed.  Although one might think that there is a lot of acrimonious competition between them, pastry chefs have a high respect for each other and make every effort to promote and associate themselves with each other. During these competitions pastry chefs have the opportunity to meet judges and get valuable tips on the specifics of their showcases.

What are your plans for the future? Any upcoming competitions aside from Coupe du Monde?

At the moment, I am just concentrating solely on the Coupe du Monde. Once that is over I will probably turn my attention to the World Chocolate Masters. In between, after so much time away from home, I will need to dedicate some time to my family and our new born daughter Scarlett.

 

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st June 2016

Chris Zammit, Pastry Chef, Camilleri Kitchen