On April 4, Relais Desserts, an association of the world’s top pastry chefs and confectioners, threw a grand party that would indulge any pastry-loving sugarholic’s desires. And it was all for a good cause; all proceeds went to City Harvest, which collects excess food to feed the hungry.
Themed “Around the World in 80 Sweets,” the event featured creations by 80 chefs in the association, hailing from different parts of France, Belgium, Japan, Italy, and Spain. The seemingly endless array of desserts included chocolate bonbons of every variety, shaped like shoes, cows, Porsches, and canelés; delightful macarons in every shade; and variations on classic desserts like bergamot-flavored choux and a French take on Bananas Foster cake.
In attendance was renowned pastry chef Pierre Hermé, who considers a good dessert one in which flavor, texture, and temperature are all in balance.
For him, pastry-making is all about pleasure. That’s why his next project, exploring different flours, focuses on their intrinsic flavors, rather than the fact that they’re gluten-free. “Because in pastry, flour is often considered a physical element but it is also a vehicle of taste. When we talk about flour, we think of wheat flour but there are many other kinds … I prefer to say ‘with chestnut flour,’ ‘with rice flour,’ ‘with buckwheat flour,’ rather than to say ‘without.'”
Seasons are key for pastry chef Sadaharu Aoki, who is known for his macarons. In Japan, he said, fall is most exciting for pastry chefs. It marks the arrival of red beans, yuzu, and other citrus. In France, it’s spring, with its plentiful strawberries.
François Payard, an award-winning chef who has opened several patisseries and bakeries in New York City, thinks of desserts as a display of creativity through working with new ingredients, “not just for show” but as a challenge.