Ed Loftus, executive pastry chef, Jamie Oliver Group

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th June 2015
Ed Loftus is executive pastry chef across the Jamie Oliver Group, working on magazine features, advising Jamie and creating desserts for his latest book, developing products as well as somewhere in between that going in and training the teams across the 40 restaurants within the group. With the aim to create desserts that recreate childhood memories Ed feels pastry is an underappreciated area but says the creativity is what drives him – give him eggs, flour, sugar, butter, milk, vanilla and the possibilities are endless of which Ed said he’ll never know them all.Berry roulade with meringue, lime curd and berries As an executive pastry chef, what does your role entail and what are your day to day duties? I am responsible for the Jamie Oliver Restaurant group which encompasses the high street brand of about 40 restaurants and also the unique restaurants as well so Barbecoa and Jamie 15. I work with the teams in those restaurants to train them to ensure they’re up to speed. I work on many developments as well as sourcing food, working with suppliers all the time to try and find new products and try to innovate really. Every day is completely different, it could be on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean training people how to make desserts (because we’ve now got a couple of restaurants on cruise ships) to working with Jamie on his latest book. I do a lot of work one to one with him on desserts, magazine features, website features, his latest book ‘Comfort Food’ where I did most of the desserts for that one; so it’s very varied really. I also did a surprise photo shoot for Jamie’s 40th birthday, designed his birthday cake and did a feature on that for a couple of magazines. So it is very sort of wide reaching I guess. Ferrero Rocher cake - Chocolate sponge sandwiched between hazelnut praline, vanilla buttercream and a hidden crunchy cornflake layerSo you’re not based in one primary location, you could be anywhere. I have an office in Piccadilly where I spend about one and a half days a week but it really does vary. We opened up a stadium about a year ago, we took on the contract for Man City football club, so I spent a huge amount of time there. We’re also about to open Barbecoa 2 in Piccadilly at the end of this year and that will take over my life for a period of time. So it really depends on the priorities. I normally get involved in projects at the beginning and then see them through, we get the right people in place and then sort of monitor it and keep developing it really. What was your first position in the Jamie Group? I’ve left a few times and come back but it was about eight years ago I went to Fifteen Cornwall as the head pastry chef. I spent some time there, left and went travelling, did some other bits of work but went back to work for Jamie at 15 London, about six years ago. I did about a year and a half there but left again went and lived in New Zealand for a year and a half.
Desert Island desserts: Kouign-amann – caramelised croissant; it’s a classic French dish Blood orange sorbet Rhubarb and custard Chocolate macaroon
I then came back and after about six months they got in touch with me again and I went to Barbecoa as head pastry chef, then after three years there they offered me the group job because of my experience in the company and the success we had at Barbecoa developing the desserts. I’ve been doing this role now for about two and a half years. What is it about the group that keeps you coming back? I think the main motivation for me is the people behind it and what it stands for. Jamie is a man of huge integrity and his work that he does educating people about food and where it comes from is a big factor; he’s a big inspiration to me. It’s also diverse as I get to try different things; I’d really struggle to find a role like this anywhere else because there is such a mix of books, magazines, websites and high street and individual restaurants. I develop products with manufacturers as well for retail, it’s such a wide reaching remit that offers variety and I love variety – I don’t like doing the same thing day in and day out. Summer fruits jellyI like the challenge and I think it’s one of the best companies in the industry if you want the variety really. Also Jamie opened 15 London 10/11 years ago and quite a few of the guys joined in the first year or two are still around. They’re the most strong, close knit team that really cares about where the company is going so it’s quite nice that there’s those same trusted faces around. You don’t often get that, especially in hospitality, people tend to move around so much. So where did you actually learn your craft, did you go anywhere for training or did you spend your time shadowing another pastry chef? My main training was from Claire Clarke when I went to work at The Wolseley, I was on the pastry section there for two years and that was my main pastry training. Other than that I’m fairly self-taught. I went to Norwich City College and did an NVQ there, I did a year at Thames Valley University with Yolande Stanley, doing a diploma in pastry, I did the first year which was a Bachelor of Science but I didn’t carry on although I built a good relationship with Yolande. I did some work with her on World Skills and been to a few selection competitions at the NEC and tried to help mentor people there. Out of everything you do what do you enjoy most?Malted custard tart with loganberry jam I love the creative aspect of it, that’s the thing that I love doing and it’s always been the driving factor for me. I love creating great plates of food and I’ve got a particular interest in old nostalgic desserts and reinventing them into a modern interpretation. I just enjoy working within a team and really like being with a group of people who get together and have a common interest in something, working long hours together. Would you say that you are still learning? Is there more to know about pastry? I think that pastry is such a diverse thing, you can never know it all and it’s an underappreciated area of the industry. Chefs get a lot of publicity, particularly nowadays with all of the TV programmes with a lot of big names out there championing and carrying the torch. But there isn’t really any big pastry chefs out there doing that, it’s a shame really because it’s the most creative area. You can give a chef a steak and a few vegetables and I know there’s many different ways and techniques of presenting those ingredients, but the raw ingredients that the pastry chefs work with on a day to day basis, the possibilities are endless. You get given eggs, flour, sugar, butter, milk, cream and vanilla and you can just knock out hundreds of different possibilities and I’ll never know them all. Blackcurrant meringue piesThat’s the beautiful thing about the job, it’s nice to learn new things every day from all different types of people. What would you say is your signature dessert? I’m not a traditional pastry chef in the sense that a lot of pastry chefs I find quite old school, they use lots of sugar techniques. My speciality are things that we used to eat when we were younger. For example, taking a trifle and reinventing it to make something completely different from what you used to have, so you have all those same sensations that you got from eating a particular dessert when you were younger but it looks completely different. I also often try and lighten things up – whether it’s taking a lemon meringue pie, I really enjoy those flavour combinations, and trying to reinterpret them and do them differently. It’s flavour focus really, I wouldn’t say that there is a particular dessert that I do that’s me in a nutshell because I enjoy so many different things but I like simple things – it is definitely flavour focused. Chocolate is also a big thing for me, the awareness of chocolate is growing and the different chocolates that you can use when making a recipe has such a big impact on the outcome. It’s kind of like wine, where it is from really can impact the flavour profile that it has. For example Venezuelan chocolate on the whole is a lot smoother but I love the fact that when you get into procuring unique ingredients chocolate is no longer just chocolate. It’s the same for bread – at Fifteen we buy really course, unrefined flour to make our bread as it has such a huge impact on flavour.Snickersphere. Made with peanuts, liquid caramel, chocolate, feuellentine, praline served with buttermilk ice cream So talking about chocolate - had you entered any competitions before you won Callebaut’s For The Love of Chocolate competition? This was my first competition! I like making great food and sharing with people and I’ve never really felt the need to enter a competition. I do enjoy going to industry competitions though but the reason why the Callebaut one is good is because it’s purely chocolate based. It appealed to me because the categories they have are quite nostalgic. They wanted a chocolate dessert and it could be with ice cream or brownie; it gave me the opportunity to create quite a nostalgic dessert which was fun. How easy was it deciding what to make for it? Recently I’ve been playing around with ice cream sandwiches. In the village that I grew up in we got a lot of ice cream vans around and I remember you would always get some sort of ice cream sandwich – a soggy wafer with some ice cream in the middle and some crunchy chocolate around the outside and 100s and 1000s. It was just quite a kitsch, old school thing that I thought was quite fun and you don’t need a knife and fork to eat it, you pick it up, you eat it, you get messy and that’s what I like about the food, the fun side of it. That was the idea behind it I just wanted to do something that was fun, I thought that people would be doing plated basic desserts or quite chef-y things and I wanted to be chef-y with a lot of technique but still fun. Strawberry and custard sliceDo you think competitions are key for pastry chefs? Are they a good opportunity for people like yourself to showcase your skills? Yeah, competitions are good. There seems to be a certain kind of person that will tend to enter a competition. It is quite an ordeal and is quite stressful, it’s a completely different level of stress from working a busy service; it depends on the person you are. I do think they are important – any way that you can draw attention to the industry is a good thing. Everyone likes the idea of being a chef nowadays but for pastry chefs there’s still some way to go in terms of highlighting the industry and the fact that there’s a lot of possibilities in the industry as well it’s not just restaurant based. For people who are in your team and the group, are they able to move around? Yeah. That to me is one of the most beautiful things about the group. The aim is that if someone wants to leave a restaurant, you can give them another opportunity within the company because we have a number of different places doing different things; there is quite a lot of scope for moving around. Doing this role it enables the company to carve out a real amount of good opportunities for pastry chefs. Jamie really likes pastry chefs as he started out at Neal Street Restaurant with Antonio Ed Loftus from Jamie OliverCarluccio as his pastry chef, so he has an understanding of what a pastry chef is. Some chefs think that they don’t take it that seriously or there isn’t that appreciation there but he really values them within his company and he also involves me in other areas that aren’t just pastry related because he sees the benefit of having a structured pastry chef and my point of view that I will have on other areas of the business. I’m not just limited to pastry, I have an influence on other areas of the menu as it is a collective and pastry chefs are a different breed and they can see things slightly differently. What are your future plans, anything coming up that you can reveal? Yeah Barbecoa 2 on Piccadilly, we’re opening on the back end of this year, it’s going to be a huge opening, a large scale restaurant and it’s the first time we’re going to do an all-day offer. So the view there is to do breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea– a great opportunity for a pastry chef to showcase some skills and a good creative outlet. Obviously this is brilliant for a pastry chef and we’re going to be right on Piccadilly so a great place for people to come and experience that.
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th June 2015

Ed Loftus, executive pastry chef, Jamie Oliver Group