Graham Hornigold, Executive Pastry Chef, Hakkasan

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th March 2013

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Graham Hornigold is Executive Pastry Chef for the Hakkasan group’s worldwide operations including the original Hakkasan restaurants, their sister Yauatcha and Sake no Hana restaurants and the newly opened HKK and Chrysan operations. Before that he was Executive pastry chef at Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park. The Staff Canteen caught up with him to find out how going global has affected his approach to pastry.  Could you start by outlining your role within Hakkasan? Yes, I’m the corporate pastry chef with the Hakkasan group. Within London we have eight units - six restaurants, a production kitchen and a development kitchen. My role within that is to oversee what everyone is doing and help develop their menus. I also take our chefs and train them in our development kitchen to help increase the overall skill levels across all of our teams. As well as that I oversee new openings, the designs and specification of our kitchens and the opening menus. I also work continuously with the chefs from our outlets in America, India and the UAE, which amounts to around 18 outlets in total. That sounds like a very busy role! How do you manage such an international team; is a lot of travel involved? The most important thing is good communication – everybody talks to everybody. So in the morning you’re talking to Mumbai then you’re talking to London then the US in the afternoon. It’s the whole network of chefs that’s important. In terms of travel, yes I might be away for as much as a month but it’s only once in a while, not every other week. When you do travel, you try to do as much as possible. So when you go to the Middle East, you try to go to Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi all on the same trip and consequently you’re away for a long period of time. As far as menu changes, I have menus sent to me which we test and approve, our unit chefs can submit their dishes and share their knowledge and ideas. How do you deal with the challenge of overseeing dessert menus in oriental restaurants where desserts aren’t such a big feature as they are in the west? It depends which brand you go to. At Hakkasan you’ll get more European-style desserts, they may have an element of Asia in them but it’s not essential. However, if you go to HKK you’ll find much more of an Asian influence in our desserts. Currently we have a palette cleanser of lychee tapioca with a passion chiboust, and a dessert of pineapple fritter with salted lime salad. We try to give the dishes a familiar feel so that people feel comfortable with an oriental dessert rather than it scaring them away. At Yauatcha our petit gateaux and macaron have a distinctly European look and flavour. Within our range of macaron we have jaffa, parma violet, cola and bubble gum. But is there an element of wanting to introduce and educate western palates to Asian desserts? There is, but you can only go so fast. At HKK we put a durian mochi on the menu and although some guests liked it, it became very much a ‘Marmite-dish’ with some people hating it. Similarly at Chrysan we have vegetable-based desserts where we are trying to convey the healthy and clean style of Japanese cuisine. There are huge restrictions on desserts in our Japanese kitchen: there’s no chocolate, less sugar, reduced dairy and more vegetable-based desserts. As a pastry chef you have to think: “what can I do here?”  Joe Mccafferty (pastry chef HKK and Chrysan) and I have developed a range of lighter desserts using authentic Japanese flavours; our sweet corn cream, caramelised pear with black Okinawa Kurosato popcorn with soya-caramel ice cream is a great dish which works within these restrictions. This is your first job not being based full-time in the kitchen; what is the greatest challenge about having to take a step back? Probably accepting that you can’t be directly in control of what everyone is doing. But at the same time we’ve got a way of doing things and I’m confident that everyone can do what is asked of them. We are lucky in that we design layouts and specify equipment for our pastry units and then give full training on methods required for consistent production. With all new builds or upon welcoming a new senior chef to our teams, I’ve got a great way of making sure that new pastry chefs know what standards are required of them - I call it ‘the walk’. All our restaurants and kitchens cost a lot of money to build; so I take them through the front doors, show them all the people milling around, all the staff, show them all the fixtures and fittings then sit them down and give them something to eat. You give them the whole experience then you say: “So you have had all this, you have had this great dining experience. What happens if you then get a bad dessert?” That’s the kind of pressure you’re under to make sure your desserts are up to our standards, they are not just reflecting on your particular restaurant, but affect perception of all our sites. That sounds like it would do the trick! You’re obviously an incredibly busy man in a role that requires a lot of energy. What motivates you each day to get up in the morning and go to work? You see the people you work with come up and in some cases they’re only 27, 30 years old running busy Michelin restaurants and that’s great. At the same time it’s continuing to work with them and teach them things they still don’t know. No one’s ever finished and we all still learn from each other. I love seeing the energy and ideas bouncing off all the teams; there’s always something new, always something to learn, always something to fix. I like to teach, I love chefs who really want to learn and bring their ideas to the fore. It’s all about putting good pastry chefs back out into the UK pastry industry and knowing that what we’ve helped build at Hakkasan will be there for a long time to come.  
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th March 2013

Graham Hornigold, Executive Pastry Chef, Hakkasan