Jean-Luc Vasseur, Executive Pastry Chef, La Cigale Hotel, Doha, tells us about his journey into patisserie and paying homage to Doha
What is your background in food and how did you become a chef?
My culinary career began at a young age. I started in a traditional patisserie boulangerie shop in the South of France close to St Tropez, then moved to restaurants and the luxury hotel industry which took me to the UK, New Zealand, the Seychelles, Singapore, Cambodia, China and now Qatar. During my time in Asia, I took part in a few international competitions and won awards in sugar display and chocolate. I became a pastry chef because of my grandmother. I used to see her cooking all these cakes and tarts for the family for our weekly Sunday lunch. I knew by 10 years old that I would do that as a profession, so I joined a culinary school when I was just a kid.
When did you first step into a kitchen and start baking professionally and what are your recollections of your training?
My first step into a pastry kitchen was at the young age of 14, so I could buy myself my dream motorbike. I started around 10pm in the evening and, most of the time, didn’t finish until around 5am in the morning. I did feel very tired and ended up falling asleep inside the storage room where they pile up the flour bags. At that time the training process was different; you started by doing simple tasks and cleaning. I loved the joy of baking and fell in love with the fresh smell of croissants at 3am in the morning.
What do you like in pastry that you cannot find in other culinary fields? And what’s the most challenging part?
The diversity in pastry, you need to know about every part like chocolates, sugar display, breads, cakes, ice cream and so on, and also, it’s like a chemistry, there is always a reason behind why a cake has failed to rise or a mousse is too soft. Also, you need to constantly keep up with the trends and latest products, that’s why every year I go to Japan or France to train in the best French chocolate school, Valrhona. The most challenging part is to source the right and perfect ingredients at the right time of year. For example, nowadays people want fresh strawberries in the middle of winter and, from my point of view, that’s wrong because you will never get the perfect flavours of the fruit. Our best sellers are the Frasier, but I wish to explain that a strawberry cake is only delicious and at its best when the fruit is in season and ripe to perfection.
Can you share with us your signature dish or style and explain what makes it special to you?
I have crafted my latest creation specially for La Cigale Traiteur at La Cigale Hotel managed by Accor, and it is called DOHA. After spending most of my career in Asia, it’s my first time in the Middle East, so the flavours are different and the palate prefers more sweetness. After tasting and trying different ingredients, I finally found the key things to combine and then I created the DOHA cake, it’s made of saffron, pistachios, orange blossom water and, of course, the nice ivory chocolate from France. ✤