Day 2 of StarChefs ICC 2011 was essentially Pierre Hermé (link to his company store) day on my agenda. Despite the fact that there was a cocktail/mixology class at the same time of his workshop, nothing can replace my undying love for Monsieur Pierre Hermé’s divine pastries and legendary macarons. Seriously, if you ever go to Paris you must go to any of his boutiques (especially on rue de Vaugirard in the 15th Arrondissement) and buy his macarons and pastries.
Anyway, at StarChefs ICC we’re fortunate to see the master present two workshops. The first one was “Emotions to Share: A Total Immersion in Sensations and Pleasure.”
Hermé and his assistant demonstrated two Emotion cakes. It’s not really a cake, as Hermé explained, since the definition of cake is very narrow and he wanted to do more than a cake. The most unusual one was the first Emotion he demonstrated. It’s composed of strawberries, olives, mascarpone cheese, tomato and invert puff pastry. It sounds very savory and mind bending as to how it would be a dessert. The one that I can relate to was his second one called Delicieux (Delicious). It’s made with white chocolate, fresh wasabi and grapefruit confit.
Hermé replied to one of the questions from the audience, there are no boundaries as to how savory would be too savory for a sweet; it is all defined by personal perspectives. The other typical question he answered was that he does not try to create unusual flavors just because he wants to; it’s a particular inspiration that gets him thinking, tell his pastry staff his vision and test it out until it is to his liking.
The more exciting workshop with Chef Hermé was two hours later in a darker, smaller room for his interactive workshop. He brought in his assistant and borrowed a pastry chef from Payard to assist in this workshop to crank out his petits pois à la menthe (fresh peas and mint) macarons. Hermé gave the audience tips as to how to create the perfect macaron (e.g. bang the sheet pan after piping to deflate excess air, have a convection oven to bake the macarons, etc.). Each table (there was about 6 or 7) partook in the activity of creating macarons: mixing the batter, piping the cookie, filling the shell, placing a few fresh peas on top of the filling, and eating the just-made macarons. Hermé does not recommend you eating freshly made macarons because it does not have the right texture (as seen on this photo) and needs a 24-hour resting period to allow the flavors and textures to mesh.
Since we do not have 24 hours to wait, Hermé had at least 6 large boxes (that probably contained at least 60-80 macarons each) of the demonstrated fresh peas and mint macarons that had the wait period. Low and behold, this was an equivalent to a macaron pot of gold. Many audience members took more than one macaron. I saw some women collected a quart-sized container full of those delectable cookies with them. I do admit I took a fair share with me since there’s no other macaron boutique in New York City that comes close to Pierre Hermé’s.
I asked him at the end of the workshop if he is planning to open a boutique in New York City? He simply said, “No.” My hopes were slightly dampened to hear it from the master himself. Hopefully, another year would come to one step closer to a boutique opening.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s part of the Q&A session with Pierre Hermé:
Q&A session with Pierre Hermé, part 1: Unusual flavors
Q&A Part 2: Foie gras macaron
Chef Rodolfo Guzman from Chile and his demonstrated dishes
Chef Rodolfo Guzman from Boragó in Santiago, Chile explained and demonstrated the vast climate and plant diversity of his country. He showed the audience his minimalistic plated kra kra fish from the Easter Islands, as sea-to-plate blended with the ancient Indian technique of cooking over volcanic rocks. His post-dessert for his restaurant represents the rainfall in cold, near-Arctic Patagonia transformed into a bite-sized snack and a visible wisp of mentholated air. Guzman also showed a video of his meticulous dessert about a unique tree of the Mapuche people because its seedpod. It resulted to have the seeds within the actual seedpod as well as having a liquid nitrogen-frozen chocolate dessert with a molten core, as it sat in a warm bath for 37 seconds. It’s complex but it looks amazing.
For more photos of Day 2 of StarChefs, please look at my slideshow below: