Meet the man behind the macaron craze making these delicious treats a foodie trend of the decade. Pierre Hermé who is fondly called the “Picasso of Pastry” recently visited Macau and we sat down with him at the uber-stylish Pierre Hermé Lounge to talk about all things sweet and delicious. The influential chef is just as famous as his eponymous brand dotted around the globe. Pierre Hermé has totally transformed the meaning of hand-made chocolates, colorful macarons or rich-flavored cakes.
Hermé was just 14 when his career began as an apprentice with French chef Gaston Lenôtre. He rose fast in his career ladder at Fauchon then later moving to Ladurée on the Champs Elysées. He flourished far and wide with his natural talent and was awarded the title of World’s Best Pastry Chef in 2016 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. He is also recognized as the fourth most influential French person in the world by Vanity Fair in 2016. The talented chef was the youngest person to be named France’s Pastry Chef of the Year, and is the only pastry chef to have been decorated as a Chevalier of Arts and Letters.
Today, Pierre Hermé operates 14 shops in Paris as well as stores in countries around the world. Regarded as an iconic chef who modernized pastry-making, Pierre Hermé created his own unique world of tastes and senses. Macau is lucky to be home to Pierre Hermé pastries, macarons and chocolates and we reveal a few of his secrets to success.
Welcome back to Macau! You have visited quite a few times over the years, what are your impressions of the city? What do you like most to do when you visit outside of work?
I mostly work and work when I’m here in Macau. I spoke with my wife for us to roam around the city next time and see the old Macau as I’ve never had the time to do it before. There are new changes happening especially in construction and it’s amazing. It seems as if Macau is growing more each time we come back here.
The theme of this year’s Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau Gala Dinner is “Sustainability through motion”. What does it mean to you as a chef?
For me, it means, when I work it’s bearing in mind the principle of sustainable eating without removing the essence of food and dining. It’s now part of a sort of reflection for chefs around the world and that’s a good step for the world we live in. For the dessert we presented at the Michelin Gala dinner not only are the key ingredients organic, but thanks to its chocolate cultivation assistance program, the Norandino cooperative in Peru offers families access to drinking water and supports the reforestation of the region. The inspiration behind it was to create a celebration of taste and delicacies with sustainable resources so that awareness around this cause can grow and that we can enjoy it all together
At this year’s Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau Gala Dinner you presented the Ultime from pâtissier Pierre Hermé, Pierre Hermé Lounge. Could you share with us more about the dessert?
I started researching chocolate with Valrhona and found chocolate from Peru, which we actually normally use, and we found vanilla bean from Madagascar. I wanted to make a dessert strong in chocolate and vanilla.
As a chef, how are you incorporating more sustainability elements into your brand, shops, and creations around the world?
We are working diligently on a program to reduce plastic in terms of packaging. It’s a whole comprehensive program aimed towards a long-term goal. It’s something we are concentrating on making sure we use a box, no plastic films. We are moving towards the use of paper ensuring that presentation is different but definitely looks good. To be honest, it’s a little bit harder when it comes to product sourcing but we are making all efforts necessary to take that path of sustainability.
Is there a cake unique to the lounge’s menu? How did you come up with creating the product?
Yes, I wanted to create something unique to the lounge. Creating a product starts with the ingredients or it could be from a discussion with someone, I find inspiration everywhere. The Morpheus’ dessert collection is exceptional! The Morpheus “Gold’ – Plaisir Sucre is exquisitely made of milk chocolate ganache and chantilly cream with hazelnut dacquoise cake, flaky hazelnut praline, Japanese mandarin jam, and hazelnut ice cream. The plating design is also exclusive to Morpheus’ Pierre Hermé Lounge in Macau.
You are famous around the world for the creation of the macaron, but tell us, what is your favorite dessert?
I don’t have a particular favorite–my favorite is always the next one that I will create! What makes my job interesting is that I’m always creating new things. And that’s satisfying.
Did you always want to be a pastry chef? How did your love of desserts begin?
I grew up in a family of four generations of Alsatian bakery and pastry-making tradition. At nine years old, I already knew what I wanted to do with my life. I was always helpful in the kitchen and started around 10 to 11 years old being allowed to bake.
What’s your favorite ingredient to work with and the hardest ingredient to work with?
I have no real favorite ingredient. I work very closely with lots of chocolate. I’m not very fond of thyme and rosemary but I recently created macaron with thyme and lemon. The thyme is from Corsica, wild thyme growing in the mountains, it has a very surprising flavor–different but delicious.
What’s been your worst kitchen disaster as a pastry chef?
Sometimes I start creating with a precise idea in mind. And it’s true what is said sometimes about the ingredients and techniques that don’t necessarily combine well together. There was a time when we worked on a particular cake in 2013, the cake Mogador, with its signature taste of passionfruit and milk chocolate. The result was not really interesting–not good but not bad, so I decided to make another one to try again and it was the same. So I put it aside and decided we would go back to it when we have the solution. A few years later, we found the solution to achieve the result we wanted. The answer was in the ingredients!
If you didn’t follow the career of being a chef, what else could you see yourself doing?
When I was very young, I admired my grandfather who was a gardener and my uncle who is an architect.
What’s happening for you in 2020? Anything new you can share with us?
There are a lot of new projects in Asia, in general. We’ve got something going on in Japan with a new hotel in Niseko. We’ll open a new place in France and I’m also launching two new vegans cakes–they are very good! I am also filming for a TV show and we’ve just taped the fourth season to be released in May 2020. And, I am also working on two new books.
Sustainability can mean a lot of things for people. What is the Pierre Hermé brand doing more towards sustainability?
Macau can be a real challenge when it comes to sustainability. I was in Japan recently to meet producers closer to the region to supply local pears, apples, strawberries and more. We want to work with regional suppliers and incorporate more into our creations.