Baptiste Villefranque – Executive Pastry Chef, W Luxury Hôtel, Hong Kong
Baptiste Villefranque knew very early that he wanted to do something with his own hands, to create something. Learning with the Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France was an amazing experience for him, preparing him for his culinary journey. Today he is Executive Pastry Chef at W Hong Kong and chat to us about the differences of French pastry and the culinary world in Hong Kong.
Baptiste Villefranque – Chef’s Portrait
Baptiste, after many international work experiences, you now work as Executive Pastry Chef at W in Hong Kong. Where did everything start for you? Why did you decide to become a pastry chef?
It all started when I discovered the “Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France” at the age of fifteen. I wanted to learn to do something with my hands and be able to create something. I really enjoyed working in the kitchen and they offered to teach me all about pastry and wondered if I would like to work in the kitchen later. I love pastry and after ten years in this industry I do not think about any other jobs.
How do you remember this time?
Learning with the Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France was an amazing experience between traveling and working. To collaborate with other workers from different industries, different cities and different specialties. To learn with people who are always ready to share their knowledge and experience. For me it was also a way to grow up by taking responsibility at a young age.
In France, you worked as a pastry teacher at Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France. During this time you were also the winner of the The French Pastry Cup. What was your winning dish?
To be a winner, the entire buffet must be spotless. From A to Z. From the viennoiseries to the sugar pieces. You need to present a creative or new product concept. The judges look very closely at all the dishes. I think that the sugar pieces “Croquembouche” were the final touch of the buffet that made the all the difference but also the degustation of all product was very important.
You moved to Moscow in 2014 as a pastry consultant, where you later worked as a pastry chef at The Ritz-Carlton for several years. How did this time affect you culinary?
In Russia I had to learn all the local products, what the expectations of the guests were. After that I had to make desserts with local fruits or berries. Taking new responsibilities as it was my first experience in the hotel industry. Learn and share different experiences of pastry shops to Five Star Hotel, another organization, a different concept and many different outlets.
How would you describe the classic French pastry?
For me, the classic French pastry must first be delicious and gourmet. Then it has to look sharp. However, if you want to make a French pastry classic, you must respect the product and the ingredients of its composition. Then you can change the shape or customize it to your liking, but the main ingredients have to be there.
And what about modern French pastry?
The modern pastry is all about the visual aspect; today it is very important. It has to look shiny and greedy. After the look, of course, the taste must be original and delicious.
You recently moved to Hong Kong as Executive Pastry Chef for W Hong Kong. What was your first impression of the culinary world in Hong Kong?
In comparison to other countries, pastries in Hong Kong must look fresh and be smaller in portion. Locals like small bites and pastries that have to do with fresh fruit.
It has to be memorable. – Chef Baptiste on the importance of desserts
What is the culinary pastry set up at the W Hotel in Hong Kong?
The culinary pastry set up at W Hotel in Hong Kong is a mix between western (French pastry) and Chinese local desserts.
How would you describe your own culinary style after so many different experiences today?
I work with fresh local products and I create something elegant with a lot of style. On my plated desserts, I love it when it’s very clean. You can see what you eat, and always have at least 3 textures. For me a dessert is what guests will remember at the end of the meal. So it has to be memorable.
Can you share some of your favourite creations with us?
I can share with you my signature dessert “Pavlova”, which I created in 2015 in Moscow.
Very fresh and wonderful dessert, perfect after a meal with a hint of raspberry-ginger sauce.
It has been 4 years since I added Pavlova to my menu with great success.
And your latest creation?
My latest creation is a Mont Fuji, which I will create for Christmas 2018 here in Honk Kong.
For this dessert I use a dark chocolate Samana 62% of La Chocolaterie de L’opera and also their new cocoa powder 10/12% MG NOIR.
Mont Fuji is a composition of different textures with a creamy ganache of 62%, chocolate crispy chips without sugar and an intense hot chocolate sauce.
What are some of the lesser-known spices that you use in some of your pastry creations?
I like to use ginger in my desserts.
Seasonal, regional, sustainable, fusion – there are many trends and developments in kitchens today. What recent and future developments do you see in the world of pastry?
I notice that the pastries now have to be very trendy and have to look shiny when all take pictures and share them on social media. The trend in pastry is like haute couture, it changes very fast, pastry is really ephemeral. Every season has a pastry concept. I like it, but as a chef I think, we have to be careful and focus on teaching the future generation of chefs the right things.
Thank you very much, Baptiste!
Chef Baptiste has created a lot of wonderful and delicious desserts.
How about you? Are you also a passionate pastry chef?