Edible art

Name: Tess

Age: 30

Job: Patisserie chef de partie at Milse

City/town: Auckland

What does your job entail? I make upmarket café-style cakes/desserts for eight Hipgroup cafés around Auckland, and I prepare tarts, gateaux and smaller goods to sell at Milse. I consider seasonality of produce, cost, dietary requirements and trends when changing menu items.

How long have you been doing it? I’ve been at Milse for a year and worked in pastry kitchens for the last three and a half years.

What attracted you to this line of work? I’ve always loved baking and desserts, then eating them! I’m a bit of a perfectionist; I love art and creating aesthetically pretty things. Patisserie allows me to use these skills/passions as it requires precision to create beautiful art that is also deliciously edible.

What training was involved? A two-year AUT Diploma in Patisserie, while working part-time as a pastry commis chef.

What do you love most about your job? The creativity in making a dessert from raw ingredients, and taste-testing!

And what are the worst bits? Hours can be long during Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. There’s some manual labour carrying 25kg bags of flour and sugar, and some tasks are boring and repetitive.

What motivates you in your work? Creating new flavour combinations to rejig people’s perspective on desserts and I’m inspired by my colleagues.

What are your career goals? I would like to continue learning and fine-tuning my patisserie skills so that one day I can be a head patisserie chef.

Do you have any key mentors or people who have influenced you? Award-winning pastry chef Janice Wong’s use of traditionally savoury ingredients in her desserts is inspiring as it breaks conventions of traditional dessert making. I also love her “pursuit for perfection in imperfection, and an appreciation of imperfection in perfection”. And French pastry chef Pierre Hermé pushes the boundaries of traditional patisserie in terms of creation and taste. He is known as a ‘pastry provocateur’.

Where did you grow up and what was it like? I grew up in Zimbabwe and moved here when I turned 15. My childhood was wonderful. I spent most of it playing and drawing outside.

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