In conversation with Pastry Chef Paul Hayward

 

Pastry Chef Paul Hayward is a world renowned, award winning pastry chef with thirty years of experience and originally from England. Paul trained under Master French, German and Swiss Pastry chefs and achieved the highest qualifications possible in his field. He has worked in premium five star hotels and resorts in London, Florida, Bahamas and Dubai. Paul has now opened his open pastry consultancy ‘Ph by Design’ and is based in Dubai where he is using his creative and diverse approach and unique style, combining classic combinations with modern twists with flavors and presentation. His travels and vast culinary experience including modernistic cuisine, liquid nitrogen, themed cake sculpting, air brushing, chocolate and sugar works, vegan, gluten free and many dietary restrictions influence his work to a great extent. He enjoys a fun approach and original style for pastry individually designed for his clients to fit any need. Paul has great experience in openings including restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, franchises including Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks and even a cooking school right from the idea to conception with a strong understanding of financial aspects, hygiene and current trends. His specialized services include but are not limited to demonstrations, trainings, workshops, master classes, consultancies and custom design classes based on client needs.

 

What inspired you to become a pastry chef?

At a very young age, helping my grandmother whenever she was baking made me happy. Taking simple ingredients and creating an experience through my baking that affected people’s lives and memories positively inspired me to become a pastry chef.

You’ve been in the industry for quite some time. Would you have done anything differently when first starting out?

I started thirty years ago, at that time no one that I knew was a chef, I had no idea how to become a chef, just knew that this is what I want to do. Even though many people told me not to do it as long hours, working weekends, holidays, no routine, bad pay but this was my passion and I knew it could help me travel and make all the places I had seen on the TV reachable and possible to work and travel too. Now it’s much easier to find out information due to the internet and social media. If I had to go back again there is not much I would change and everything that has happened has molded me into the person I am today. When unpleasant things happen they are making you stronger but you just don’t realize it at that time.

 

You’ve cooked in some really intimidating kitchens. Was there anything you did to build your confidence and ensure you always maintained the drive?

Confidence comes with knowing your job and knowing your job takes time, practice and determination. Try and always work for people that have amazing reputations and know the trade and will teach you correctly from the beginning and ensure you learn something new every day otherwise realize it’s time to move on.

 

What’s the latest trend when it comes to baking and patisserie?

The most popular thing right now is laminated doughs, brioche, croissants, Danish with variations of shapes, themes and flavors.

What is the one food (pastry) trend you wish would just go away?
I think many people focus on making dishes that look amazing for photos and social media instead of focusing on the actual taste, texture and presentation of the whole dish as many photos I see look stunning, amazing photography but when you look closely you would not want to eat it.

 

What is your baking style and the philosophy behind it?

Traditional recipes and techniques twisted to fit my customer’s needs is the philosophy behind my baking style. A huge amount of my business currently working in Dubai and surrounding areas is Middle Eastern flavors combined with comfort foods and western desserts. So could be a soufflé made with sticky dates and salted caramel or a cinnamon roll using cardamom and pistachio topped with rose frosting, strawberry combined with rosewater in profiteroles but my main goal is to convert my customer’s dreams into reality thought my baking.

What’s your favourite comfort food?

Apple pie with homemade real vanilla cream is my favorite comfort food.

 

What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product?

After tasting all day every day sometimes a pastry chef just wants simple things like lemon or marble cake or a fresh baked lemon tart.

 

What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?
Never give up, practice, practice and practice, study as information is everywhere these days but look for what you like in items and what you don’t as this will help create your own style instead of copying someone else.

What are your Future Plans as pastry chef?

I want to keep on helping my customers, conduct more classes and eventually write a book or series of books not just with recipes but how, why you can change recipes, substitute ingredients and make your own creations on all the aspects of pastry.

 

Would you consider yourself as an artist?

Yes, at school I loved art and my teacher wanted me to go to an art school but as a chef I knew I could do both.

 

Are you inspired by artists when you create your pastries?

Yes, many years ago I used to look at modern art which inspired me with designs for plated desserts.

 

When you create different products everyday where do you get inspired from?

Everything and everywhere, it could be an ingredient, a mould, the season we are in, the weather, events like Halloween, Easter or Ramadan, countries, cultures, I never run out of ideas and don’t think I ever will.

The topic of local food, from smaller, specialized and personally known producers, is becoming more important. What are some of your local partners from whom you source?

If you want to make the best you must use the best, supporting local places where you live is important to support the economy but also increase the freshness. Also when you buy from specialists they have spent the time to make sure that the product is the best, has unique characteristics, tastes and textures and understanding how the ingredients are made and what they are made of helps you balance your recipes and make the right choices.

 

What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations as pastry chef?

Originality created for an event, place, taste, texture and price point are the winning features of my creations.

 

What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?

Understanding the needs of your customer, skill level, kitchen and equipment, ingredients, style of food and their food cost are important considerations when crafting my menus.

 

Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?

I do what is needed and trending in the market and actually spent a few years working with vegan desserts, understanding what is needed and how to overcome not using basic ingredients like eggs, milk and cream that we take for advantage and conducted classes on this and opened a healthy themed coffee shop in Dubai when 80% of the menu is vegan.

 

What’s your restaurant’s signature dish as pastry chef?

I have too many signature desserts and recipes to mention but always try to have a creamy, chocolate, fruit, citrus, hot and frozen dessert when creating menus for plated Desserts.

 

How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?

Social media without a doubt can increase the communication, hotels and restaurants can highlight this aspect on their menus and servers up selling at the tables.

Have you ever worked with meat substitutes? If yes, what are the pros and cons.

My wife is vegetarian so we use many substitutes and to be honest the textures are sometimes as important as the taste. For example I love Thai curry which is normally made using beef with big chunks of sweet potato so at times we just leave out the meat or create some recipes using soaked cashew nuts that give the same texture as chicken.

 

Hiring and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges in any industry, but most especially in hospitality. How do you speak to your staff about career growth and progression?

Now I am a team of one but I have had teams as big as 150 in the past and the key is to treat them like a family as most of the time we spend more time with each other than our actual families. That means loving them and appreciating them when they do a good job and not hesitating to point out when they are not performing so well but with constructive criticism. It is important to explain what they did wrong and how and give them directions on how to fix and improve. Promoting staff from within your team wherever possible is important and when hiring from outside it’s best to being in people that will add value and fit within your team. I also always try to hire mixed nationalities from as many backgrounds as possible which not only helps with different styles of food but helps us all grow and learn from each other’s cultures.

 

Which is the dish you’ve created as pastry chef that you are most proud of and why?

I would not say I created soufflés but I am perfecting them. Most pastry chef’s hearts miss a beat when you mention soufflés as so many things can go wrong. But I get excited at the thought of creating soufflés and I broke the recipe down to create my own version to make the perfect soufflé.

Jyoti Balani