Pascal Pochon: "Mastering pastry-making is a life-long endeavor"

18 April 2019
Pastry
Témoignage Pascal Pochon
In Saint-Malo, Pascal Pochon's chocolates are known for their lightness, their surprising appearance and delicious tastes. The master chocolatier and Pastry chef at the Grand Hotel des Thermes, spends his days crafting sublime chocolate to delight the epicures. On the occasion of his speech at Institut Culinaire de France, we met a passionate craftsman, who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, even after more than 30 years in the profession.

Tell us about your career ...

Since I was trained as an apprentice, I started very early ... and was lucky to be under a chef who allowed me to learn many different techniques. Also adding to my skills was participation in  pastry arts competitions such as Championnat de France du Dessert (note: which he first won and then presided over in 2018), Championnat de France du Chocolat, and the competitive exam Meilleurs ouvriers de France in 2007 (note: he was a finalist). Since 1984, I have been the Pastry Chef at the resort Thermes Marins de Saint Malo and I still manage a team of 36 professionals.

What is your opinion on the opening of Institut Culinaire de France?

I think that it is a great idea.  I notice that nowadays more and more young people are interested in the pastry and gastronomy sectors. It is very important to have a school that offers training programs addressing both the needs of these young people and the needs of restaurants and artisan enterprises.

You currently work with 36 chocolate specialists. How would you rate the level of today's apprentices?

There is a bit of everything. Nowadays, it is quite common to find students with two years of higher education applying for production jobs. Some training programs can be five to seven years long! When they finish their studies and make it into the kitchen, some are qualified for team leader positions and could manage one or two people. It's rather impressive. These training programs allow them to acquire a solid technical base and then, aspire to positions of more responsibility. Nevertheless, learning pastry is a lifelong endeavor. First, they learn the techniques, then perfect them through practice, and finally adding their personal touch.

What do you expect from pastry apprentices?

That they have a grasp of the basics.  It is fundamental to the craft. Nowadays we see a lot of re-interpretation, but to re-interpret something, to be creative and add your own touch, first you must master the basics. It is not said often enough, but our craft is actually built on several trades: pastry, chocolate, catering, baking ... There is a lot to it.

What would you say is missing today among young people starting in the culinary arts?

Passion. Without passion, you cannot thrive on the job. It is a somewhat difficult profession; it demands a lot of discipline. Even more than other jobs do. In this business, you need to have high standards but also stamina: we work on weekends, on holidays, early in the morning, late at night ... We must make ourselves available and that is why passion is paramount.

What advice would you give to future pastry chefs?

This is a very good question ... I would say: do this job out of love. It is something I say very often, because it is important. We take care of people in many highlighted moments of life: marriages, baptisms, birthdays ... Our work brings happiness to people.

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