Can you tell us about your background?
Clément Jolin: When I was 17, I went abroad to study, starting in Australia. I did a Bachelor's degree in film directing and I did my last year in Los Angeles. I ended up staying there for 10 years. Then I did a Bachelor's degree in photography to become a fashion photographer. I came back to France at that time but, in the end, all my employers were based in London ,so I settled there and stayed for seven years. Then I wanted to go back to the US but the health crisis put a stop to that. I reevaluated what it was I wanted to do and realised that this was my opportunity to follow my dream of working in the pastry industry.
Where did this dream come from?
CJ: It came from a childhood memory. I am originally from Aix en Provence and my family has a holiday home in the Haut Var where I used to spend a lot of time. We always went to the pastry shop in a small village called Barjols where they sold some really extraordinary desserts. This family of pastry chefs has always made a meringue with whipped Chantilly cream that I love. Later on, the grandson took over the business but moved to Aix en Provence as a chocolate maker and confectioner. When I decided that I wanted to follow my dream, I went to see him and he agreed to teach me some things and show me how to prepare this famous dessert which was no longer even on display.
What made you decide to join the Institut Culinaire de France?
CJ: This rediscovery of the Chantilly meringue made me want to revive dying desserts. I realised that I needed to train in pastry making before I could open a shop. I looked for a fast-track course in the US but there wasn't much, so I looked in France and found ICF, which was about to open and was offering a fast-track programme. I signed up for the Pastry CAP course for the start of the 2020 school year.
You took part in the Business Game—how did that go?
CJ: It was a real challenge, pretty difficult, with very long hours. We had five or six weeks to prepare a three-year business plan. I worked really hard over the Christmas holidays to present something that was accomplished. And I also knew that I was up against colleagues who had more experience than me.
During the challenge, I had a lot of support from the chefs.
It was also stressful to prepare our products in a limited timeframe. I wanted to make my meringue with different flavours but I couldn't find a way to make an infusion without heating the cream. Fortunately, during the challenge, I was fully supported by the chefs—in particular Kyung-Ran Baccon and Amélie Kayser, who helped me to make a cold infusion with fresh fruit. This enabled me to make several flavoured creams for my meringues.
So support from the chefs is very important…
CJ: Yes, it's great to have such support. At the Institut Culinaire de France, we have an extraordinary team of chefs. They are all very talented—Kyung-Ran Baccon is an incredible pastry chef. And, above all, they are there to guide us and help us.
What was the project you presented?
CJ: I started with the idea of a single-product business, with this much-talked-about meringue. It's a dessert that's already well known but I want to make it popular again. It's often a classic in pastry shop windows but it's not what people buy. I want to bring it up to date with this old recipe that I was taught. The judges loved my Chantilly cream meringues.
Since I started working on this project, every pastry chef and baker I’ve talked to tells me the story of a dessert from their family that no one else makes, a dessert that is only known in a very small area, like a village, a dessert that is on its way to being forgotten. I would like to have the opportunity to bring back these dying desserts and create a label that would bring together traditional products and small regional pastries. I think that this heritage should be safeguarded, especially in France, which is a country of heritage.
I'm leaving my life behind to follow my dream.
What are your plans for the future?
CJ: I finished my training at the Institut Culinaire de France and I want to turn this project I’ve been dreaming of into a reality. I was lucky enough to meet a family friend who had bought some buildings in Williamsburg and wanted to do a project with a pastry chef. The person he had chosen couldn't do it in the end, so I got in touch with him and he was very interested. I'm putting together a business plan to open a single-product shop on the shop floor of a building. Then I would like to be able to distribute it in other countries like Japan or South America. It's a big project for me—I have a wife and three children and I'm leaving my life behind to follow my dream.
Do you have any advice for future students at the Institut Culinaire de France?
CJ: Be brave and do it! I was impressed with the standard at the institute so if you want to start a project don't hesitate! And, above all, take part in the next Business Games!