I first tasted Etienne Le Bastard’s pastry 3 years ago while I was having dinner at David Bouley’s flagship restaurant. I had Etienne’s Vacherin made with raspberries, basil, lime and meringue. I was amazed by the elegance and perfect balance of this dessert. Since then I have tasted more of his amazing creations and they all have that same elegance, lightness and purity of taste that I love in desserts. Recently, Etienne welcomed me at Bouley at Home. We talked about his story, his work as a pastry chef and his hopes for the future, before going into the kitchen where I was lucky enough to watch him make some of his creations, including the Vacherin.
Where are you from and when did you come to the US? I am from Brittany in France, but I lived in Paris for a few years before coming to the US in summer 2015.
What was your path and did somebody inspire you in that path? I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a chef and told my parents around the age of 7. I used to watch Joël Robuchon’s TV show “Bon Appétit Bien Sûr” and I loved it! I first went to Culinary School in Lannion, Brittany where I studied food in general. I specialized in pastry afterwards at the CFA in Ploufragan. During this year, I participated in two pastry contests and I won one. The first restaurant I worked in was Michelin 1-Star La Ville Blanche with Jean-Yves Jaguin for four years and then I moved to Michelin 2-Star restaurant L’Auberge des Glazicks with Olivier Bellin. After that, I moved to Paris to work at Alain Passard’s gastronomic restaurant l’Arpège for 2 years and then Alain Ducasse’s restaurant Le Meurice for 1 year. This is when David Bouley reached out to me and asked me to come visit him at his New York restaurant for 2 weeks. So, I went and I never left.
How does David Bouley’s food philosophy influence your work? David Bouley’s food philosophy is all about healthy food and how the ingredients and the way you prepare them influence your whole body and mind wellness. David Bouley changed my philosophy and I try to use this in my pastry work as often as possible which means low sugar, no additives, no food coloring and when possible, no gluten. What is a good pastry for you? For me, a good pastry is one that feels light, with a lot of fruit and not too much sugar. And when you finish the pastry you just want another one! Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration in many different things! It can be art, as sculpture for example; it can be the season and going to the farmers market and see what they have; it can be travelling… Inspiration can have different forms and come from a lot of different sources.
How do you source your ingredients? It depends on the products. If you take chocolate for example, I’ve always worked with Valrhona, a French company, since I started. It’s the same with vanilla, I’ve always worked with the same provider called Alain Abel. He produces different Grands Crus of Tahitian vanilla and their quality is amazing! For the fruits and vegetables, I go to farmers markets and more particularly Union Square Greenmarket. I always try to work with the same farmers. It seems like the pastry world has changed a lot in the past 10 years. How would you describe this change and how do you explain it? First of all the pastry world is getting more and more publicized in the media. It started with food in general through different TV shows and social media, like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Today, pastry is an integral part of this growing interest for food. It has become extremely popular on social media and the pastry chefs behind the pastries as well. Pastries themselves have evolved over the last 10 years, towards creations that feel lighter and often contain more fruit and less sugar and fat. Customers want desserts that are healthier.
You recently travelled to Japan. What did you learn there? A lot of things! I love Japan and Japanese food! Japanese people have a different approach to food and they have a lot of knowledge about fermentation. I regularly go there with David Bouley and we always come back with a lot of ideas and knowledge about products they use like Kombu and specific techniques such as fermentation. When I come back, I integrate these ingredients and techniques into my desserts. For example, one of my desserts is made with miso paste which comes from fermented soy beans. We also now have on the menu a Koji sorbet which is made out of fermented rice. The inspiration for this recipe comes from Japanese amazake, which is a sweet drink. The fermentation brings the sweetness to this drink which doesn’t need sugar. For this dessert, I make amazake and transform it into a sorbet. It is sweet but doesn’t contain any sugar. What do you like best about your job? Research, development and creation!
What are your hopes for the future? I want to stay in the US and my dream would be to one day open my own pastry shop!