When a technique is mastered, that’s when it becomes invisible. What are your thoughts on this?
Frédéric Bau: This is an excellent question. I am fond of this saying, so thank you for bringing it up. Pierre Gagnaire said this at one of his conferences. He explained that when a technique is mastered, it becomes invisible, so there is no need or interest in the technique. When you opt for a bite at Pierre Gagnaire, you are seeking intense emotions: pleasure, happiness and such. Gagnaire believes that once the technique is evident, it becomes worthless because it’s no longer about inducing emotions; it becomes about craft and show. I believe that a technique is the hidden part of an iceberg. It is what makes a dessert harmonious and elegant. Clients are not focused on the technique; they mainly care about taste and texture. Today, we are tackling the technical side of it because we are addressing professionals. When we address consumers, the technique is less interesting for them.
Sweets are for pleasure, while savory is for nourishment. How do you convey that in your desserts?
Frédéric Bau: What a lovely question! There is pleasure in eating both savory and salty. But your question makes a lot of sense. Nowadays, we tend to overconsume. When one reaches the end of a dinner, they need to be presented with a dessert that not only compliments the meal, it also takes wellbeing into consideration. That is why I suggest serving a “Gourmandise Raisonnée.
Pierre Hermé: It is our role to offer clients the choice between ultra-rich pastries and a pastry that is reasonable. These two alternatives will determine the future of our craft. The common denominator between traditional recipes and sensible ones is taste.
I always say that savory is for nourishment and sweets are for pleasure. Sweets need to imperatively provide pleasure.
How do you select the right ingredients?
Pierre Hermé: I pay great attention to taste, origin and how it is produced. When it comes directly from the source, it is better. For example, we source nuts from Spain, we buy apples from France and strawberries either from France or Great Britain, depending on the season. I make it a point to review the passport and the ID of each supplier. I make sure to know all our suppliers and maintain a relationship with them.
Why did you choose to join forces to create “Gourmandise Raisonnée”?
Pierre Hermé: We have a great friendship. Frédéric first approached me to transform one of my recipes into a “Reasoned Gourmandise,” and I thought why not take this further and work on a project together? He started the project, and I had the idea of selling a selection of the desserts in my pastry shop under the umbrella “Reasoned Gourmandise.”
Frédéric Bau: I went to Paris in October 2021 after reworking the vanilla and the citron tarts of Pierre Hermé. It was before the book release, and I wanted Pierre to taste the desserts even though he had validated the recipes. He sampled several recipes and found them all exquisite, which is when he had the epiphany of releasing the “Reasoned Gourmandise” range in his pastry shop in Paris for four months. I worked with Pierre and Valrhona’s research and development team on the project, and it is thanks to him that I was able to showcase my desserts in his shop. When Valrhona suggested dedicating an event for “Reasoned Gourmandise” in the UAE, I jumped at the chance of inviting Pierre, as I consider him to be the spokesperson.
What can you tell us about ‘Reasoned Gourmandise’ desserts?
Pierre Hermé: Frédéric went beyond the selection of “Reasoned Gourmandise” that we serve at Pierre Hermé. At Pierre Hermé, we serve the two tarts that already exist inhouse — the vanilla tart and the lemon tart — and we added two creations, the chocolate praline one called Chou Orphéo and the strawberry, cardamon and orange dessert called Constellation.
What inspires you?
Pierre Hermé: Everything and anything inspires me. It can be something I see while passing in front of a shop in Dubai or Paris. I saw many beautiful things at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, so inspiration is everywhere, especially when you least expect it. Once, I was walking in the streets of Marrakesh, and took a photo of a nice pavement. A few months later, I was commissioned by La Mamounia for special chocolate tablets, so it was evident to me that I should replicate the pavement. When I initially took the picture, I never thought that I will ever use it as inspiration to create a dessert.
What are your upcoming projects?
Pierre Hermé: I have plenty of projects in the pipeline. I am finalizing Saint Valentine’s 2023 and Christmas 2022. We also have several openings, including two tea places and a pastry shop in Qatar as well as branches in Paris, at Gare de Lyon and at La Gare du Pont de l’Alma. There is also something planned for KSA.
In addition, I have 3 upcoming book releases. Stay tuned.
Frédéric Bau: I think there will probably be a sequel to “Reasoned Gourmandise.” It will have a more professional and artisanal outlook. I am also opening in a pottery studio in two months’ time to provide sustainable plates for star chefs in France. The plates would last a year before they are recycled and redone. The plates are all handmade. I already made some for Pierre. This project is my second pleasure.
Do you prefer black, milk or white chocolate?
Frédéric Bau: I don’t have a chocolate preference; I have preferences in the way I work with each, but when it comes to a favorite, I don’t have one. It would be pretentious of me to say I prefer dark chocolate, as Pierre proved that milk chocolate can be as gastronomic as dark chocolate. White chocolate is a fabulous aromatic chocolate. The blond chocolate I created at Valrhona is excellent, so I don’t have a preference. In terms of taste, Valrhona presents us with rich and diverse ranges of chocolate, enabling artisanal people like me to do fabulous things.
Pierre Hermé: Milk and dark chocolate are similar, in my opinion. Sometimes, I also work with blond chocolate. I hardly use white chocolate on its own in pastries, but I use it a great deal in my macarons, which is why I am one of the biggest purchasers of white chocolate at Valrhona. I don’t use white chocolate for its taste but its aroma.