Markus Bohr, Executive Pastry Chef, Harrods

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th November 2012
Markus Bohr has been executive pastry chef at Harrods food hall since 2008. The German chef studied at the prestigious Pastry Master School in Stuttgart Germany, before starting his career as a confectioner at Café Weynard, Germany. He then gained vast experience travelling the world, working as a pastry chef at the Sheraton Imperial hotel in Malaysia before becoming the executive pastry chef at the Oriental hotel in Bangkok. From there he worked as the executive pastry chef in Grand Hyatt hotels in Taipei, Jakarta and Washington DC, before moving on to The Phoenican resort in Arizona and then the Shangri-La hotels and resorts. Some of Markus’ signature dishes are a chocolate truffle cake, lemon verbena marshmallows and his self-created apple croustillant. He recently teamed up with Godiva’s executive chef chocolatier Thierry Muret and global chef chocolatier David Funaro to design the menu for the new Godiva café in Harrods.

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Markus Bohr, thank you very much for inviting us into Harrods today. Give us an overview of your role of Executive Pastry chef of Harrods please. To give you an overview of Harrods, we have the world-famous Food Halls plus a collection of nearly 30 restaurants - each one with an individual character - and the vast majority of them are supplied by the pastry and bakery production kitchen. So you can appreciate that the sheer quantity of different lines being supplied, as well as the volume of food that is being produced on a daily basis in our kitchens are both impressive and extensive. That takes a lot of organising, a lot of planning and forward thinking! Of course, Harrods wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn't constantly in the process of reinventing, reassessing what’s been done in the past, and evolving to hopefully shape trends rather than reacting to them. That, to a very large extent, is part and parcel of my role. I need to make sure that the business moves forward, that we have the infrastructure to do so, and that we constantly keep ahead of the game at the highest level – a level that goes beyond our customers’ expectations. Markus you have a team of 30 chefs. What is a normal day, if there is such a thing? If we start in the one time of the day when there are no chefs in the kitchen, which is roughly between eight and nine at night, we have a cleaning crew coming in at that time, and clean the whole operation. The night bakers then arrive to mix, prove and bake all the breads that are being sold throughout the food halls and the restaurants. These are sent out by six in the morning. This is when those on the morning pastry shift arrive. They are preparing all the pastries for all the restaurants as well as the Food Halls. Then the next shift to arrive will be the “bakery AM” shift. The night bakers have now all gone home. The bakery AM shift is preparing all the scones and pastries that are being used in Harrods. And how many scones would you make a day roughly? I would say anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000, sometimes 4,500 per day and they are all handmade. They are mixed, sheeted out, and cut individually by hand. We have another production shift, the “pastry PM” shift, coming in who work until 8PM doing all the heavy by-product mixing for the pastry (the producing of the sponges and the cakes and all the big batches that are then baked off and cooked). And by 8PM, the night cleaners are coming in ready to get started on another exciting day at Harrods. How big a food business in terms of turnover is the pastry department? We would have on a daily basis probably about 2,000 up to 4,000, 5,000 individual pieces of pastry leaving the pastry kitchen every day and that is from the fruit tartlets and macaroons that are on afternoon tea to 20, 30, 40 cakes that have been specially ordered at the food orders desk. Everything that has been sold in the Harrods Food Halls, the pastries (with the exception of one or two concessions in store), are all made in-house. So what’s your single biggest challenge in your role? The single biggest challenge is staffing, with a workforce of 30. But that's true in any big operation isn’t it? Yes it is. But we have grown the Harrods pastry department at such a tremendous pace, producing goods of a very high level of quality. It’s an extremely busy operation, not for the faint-hearted! Therefore, staff turnover can tend to be common, particularly during probationary period, as many people simply can't or don’t want to put themselves through what it takes to be a pastry chef. It requires a high level of commitment and energy, and not everyone has what it takes. Last question for you then Markus when you leave here in years to come what will you look back on as your single biggest success? I would say that the Harrods couvertures, named ‘Number One’ and ‘Number Two’, are what I am most proud of. I created these three years ago, and they are used within the business for both our chocolate pralines as well as in the patisserie. We’re using it by the tonne! They have also gone on to win awards – which is testament to the quality of the recipe. Also, we have instituted a culture of change that I believe will last past my own tenure here at Harrods. We are placing a great emphasis on the development and training of our staff. The people who’ve worked here that have moved on to do other things all leave teary-eyed. They have done things here that they’re proud of. I’m glad I’m able to be in a position to help them in their journey, just as others have helped me. When the time comes that I eventually leave Harrods, I will be proud to leave these legacies behind. Well listen thank you very much on that note. Thank you for inviting us in, it’s been wonderful to come and see you. It’s been a blast. Thank you very much.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th November 2012

Markus Bohr, Executive Pastry Chef, Harrods