Secrets of baking success

New York-based chef Rory Macdonald reveals what it takes to become a top pâtissier and provides two favourite mousse recipes

First in, last out. That’s the first thing I say to anyone looking to enter this profession. In a restaurant the pastry chefs are there at the beginning and the end of a meal, and in pâtisseries or bakeries, their work often starts just as everyone else goes to bed.

It can be tough and relentless, but I have never thought of it as a sacrifice. Whether working as a chef or a pastry chef, this is my job, this is what I do. And if you want to have any sort of success in this career or any career, you have to work hard and be dedicated. It’s not glamorous, but it is rewarding.

It’s the little things in life. I still smile every time I tap out a tray of shiny chocolate bonbons, and I’m still proud when my macarons come out with perfectly straight sides or when I speak with a guest who enjoyed their pastry.

"Baking is a skill, a trade, an art form – whatever you want to call it, it takes time, patience, and practice" says the Chef

As Chef David Evans [Macdonald’s first boss, at Nutfield Priory Hotel in Surrey] taught me, success is not about recognition, success is about being proud of what you do. Practice until you get it right, and then take pride in the results, whether it’s in a professional kitchen or at home, a caramel or a croissant.

Rules for perfect pastry

Pastry making is a discipline. The more you can stick to these guidelines (or, in my world, rules!), the greater your chance of consistency and success. In Chanson’s [Macdonald’s New York pâtisserie] kitchen when my cooks say to me, “Something went wrong, I don’t know what happened, I did everything the same,” I always smile because that’s not how baking works, especially when it comes to pastry.

At some point the rules weren’t followed, whether it was the scaling of the recipe, the time of a proof, the ...

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