Sarah Frankland, Head Pastry Chef, Pennyhill Park

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st February 2017

Sarah Frankland is head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park in Surrey. Sarah’s enviable career started when she was just 16 after securing an apprenticeship at Westminster Kingsway college whilst working under Angela Hartnett at the Connaught.

Since then Sarah’s love for pastry has given her the opportunity to work for the likes of chocolatier and patissier, William Curley and more recently with Graham Hornigold at Yauatcha (which is part of the Hakkasan Group) where she was head pastry chef before moving to Pennyhill Park.

Sarah’s creativity has also won her numerous awards for her work including the Acorn award 2012 and the Roussillion dessert trophy UK & Europe 2012.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Sarah about why she thinks afternoon tea is the best area for a pastry chef to shine, giving young chefs the right mentoring and why entering competitions pushes you as a chef.

Citrus pannacotta, kumquat, yuzu

Citrus pannacotta,

kumquat, yuzu

What attracted you to a career in pastry?

I always knew I would work in something creative, I loved art and design and being hands on in my studies. I was working in a chocolate shop whilst I was at school and I was intrigued how these beautiful creations were made. I went to Westminster college to take part in a one day chocolate and patisserie course and I was instantly hooked. As a result, I left home at 16 to live in London and did a pastry apprenticeship at Westminster Kingsway college whilst working for Angela Hartnett at the Connaught.

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

I’ve always worked in pastry as it was the area I wanted to specialise in –there is so much to learn in pastry that I never felt the need to experience the savoury side of the kitchen. As a result I’ve never worked in other areas of the kitchen although I’ve obviously had to work very closely with all areas over the years.

You recently moved from Yauatcha to Pennyhill Park, why the change?

I wasn’t actively looking for a role as I really enjoyed working at Yauatcha – they have a great team – But after being made aware of the Pennyhill Park opportunity and after exploring it a little I was very excited by the challenge. At that point I had been at Yauatcha for three years so I guess a part of me thought it was time to explore a new role. There must be quite a big difference between the two. The main difference is that it’s a restaurant versus a hotel. The pastry which needs to be created is more diverse at a hotel although the quality of pastry myself and my team strive to produce is the same. In a five red star hotel like Pennyhill Park I feel the afternoon tea is really a place for the pastry chef to shine individually, unlike in a restaurant which is closely associated with the chef.

>>> Related: Graham Hornigold, Executive Pastry Chef, Hakkasan

How are you finding it there so far?

It is a really beautiful hotel and the team and management are very supportive of all my ideas. There is a lot I would like to change and achieve so it’s a great challenge for me.

PennyHill Park
PennyHill Park

Do you find more inspiration for your dishes working in the countryside as opposed to the big city?

I’m inspired by my surroundings for sure as well as the different flavours that are available in the Pennyhill Park gardens, be it the honey, fruits or herbs. I think the country is definitely very different from working in the city but there are very different and great inspirations to be found in both.

What new dishes are you currently working on?

I’m constantly working on new dishes – I love the different seasons and flavours associated with them so it’s a continuous process for me. I’ve just completed a rhubarb and jasmine cake for the afternoon tea service. Rhubarb is just coming into season and we’ve managed to source some lovely produce from Yorkshire for this.

What are the biggest challenges in your role as pastry chef?

I think the largest challenge is combining paperwork and admin with time in the kitchen. My preference, as I’m sure any chef would say, is to be in the kitchen working with my team. Unfortunately, paperwork and admin is an integral part of running a strong pastry function and a necessary evil!

Info Bar

Signature dishes 

Apricot, chocolate and lemon thyme, the dish I won both UK and European roussillion dessert trophy with.

Chocolate hoops – I created these chocolate hoops for the Movenpick Gourmet Dessert Chef of the Year 2012 and also used it in the final of the roussillion trophy in 2013. I created these because I had seen it done with sugar and I wanted to make it with chocolate.

Desert island desserts

Tiramisu, you cannot beat a great tiramisu.

Any good quality chocolate dessert.

Baba au rum from Alain ducasse, it was the best one I have eaten in my whole life.

Fraisier at the height of British summer – Because these are the best tasting strawberries in the world”

Eclairs – always yum and easy to eat!

Would you advise young chefs to choose earlier to specialise or experience all aspects of the kitchen then choose?

I think every young chef has to do whatever is right for them. I was fortunate enough that I knew straight away that I wanted to work in pastry but this won’t be the case for everyone so I think it’s important that young chefs are given the right mentoring and guidance by those with more experience to find the right ‘home’ for them.

Trio of desserts
Trio of desserts

Why do you feel Pastry is such a specialised area?

I feel that pastry is specialised because it is different, it requires a different mentality and approach compared to the savoury kitchen. The key is patience and understanding and the natural chemical reactions in a recipe. Pastry has advanced significantly over the last 10 years in terms of the equipment and technology available whilst the core basic recipes remain within modern pastry.

Are there any areas of pastry you would like to learn more about?

I’ve specialised heavily in pastry and chocolate but not so much with sugar. I’m keen to explore this further in the future.

You have won several competitions quite early on in your career, what do you enjoy about entering competitions?

It pushes you as a chef in a completely different way to the day-to-day working in a restaurant. It forces you to approach the preparation process in a different way to say working in a kitchen with your team. I think one of the challenges as a young chef competing in a competition is that you are generally used to being guided or driven by more experienced chefs, in a competition you are very dependent on your own self-motivation to get you through, an important development factor for young chefs. It’s also a great opportunity to meet other people from the industry.

St Dominque chocolate, mandarin, pain de epice

St Dominque chocolate,

mandarin, pain de epice

Why would you recommend more pastry chefs to enter competitions?

It forces you to cook outside the recipes that you may work with day-to-day, it broadens your horizons and gets you thinking outside the box. It also helps you to develop your own cooking style.

Have you got competitions coming up or ones you would like to enter in the future?

Not at the moment. There are a number that I’d like to enter but my focus for now is on Pennyhill Park.

*A question from our sponsors Callebaut:

Valentine’s Day is a busy time for chefs – is there a special dish you add to your menu for this celebration?

Working with the main kitchen we created a special set menu for Valentine’s day. I offered a lychee and passion fruit pre dessert and then for the main dessert raspberry and rose delice, garnished with a few love hearts to make it extra special. To continue the theme, I made some heart shaped macarons for petit fours to finish off the meal!

Are you interested in a career as a Pastry Chef? Find all the information and jobs available here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st February 2017

Sarah Frankland, Head Pastry Chef, Pennyhill Park