Monday, 24 June 2013

Respected, revered and admired - Claire Clark

 Photo courtesy of André Bieganski

To call Claire Clark one of the best female pastry chefs in the world is doing her a disservice. Claire Clark is one of the best pastry chefs in the world full stop. A bold statement this may be, but it is not without merit. She has worked with some of the best chefs and in some of the most highly regarded kitchens in the world, from the Ritz and Claridges to the French Laundry in California. She has won countless award and accolades, including the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de la Grande-Bretange and an MBE for her services to the food industry and her desserts have graced both the House of Commons and Buckingham palace. She is a master of her craft, a supreme professional and not only committed to the pursuit of excellence but also to the development of the new breed of aspiring pastry chefs. Claire’s passion, creativity and dedication are an inspiration and recently I was lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions of my own…

You have worked with some of the most renowned and prestigious restaurants, hotels and institutions in the world. Who has been the biggest influence on your career and why?

Without a doubt Thomas Keller, for so many reasons.  He is the most amazing man and restauranteur I know.  He remains humble and whilst working at the French Laundry I learned so much more than cooking.  Respect for my team, discipline, extreme organisation and true love of food. 

What inspires you?

Ohh just about everything, fashion, art, nature, people..........

What is your favourite sweet treat to eat and to make?

Gosh,  not sure I have a favourite, I love too many things.  It changes all the time.  At the moment its getting to Company Of Cooks Production kitchen in Park Royal at 4am and enjoying a warm, fresh out of the oven Eccles cake.  I also LOVE fruit cake, especially my recipe that Louise Ridgen makes, she put three bottles of Rum in it instead of one at Christmas and as its sooooo good she continues to put 3 in!!!!! If I'm working with her there will be a cup of Earl Grey tea and a slice of fruit cake ready for my arrival. 

Is there any dessert you dislike?

I'm not fond of egg custard, its a texture thing.  I will eat it but its not my favourite texture.

Baking and afternoon tea has seen a recent resurgence in popularity. Why do you think that is?

The Great British Bake Off made it fashionable at a time when there was a recession.  Baking at home became trendy, fun and cost effective.  In my view it always has been!

What in your opinion makes the perfect afternoon tea?

Balance.  Great cakes with different textures and flavours, fluffy scones and interesting sandwiches. Stick to good baking and don't make it pretty for pretty sake then lose the quality of the product.  That's disappointing.  Taste must come first. Oh and a great cuppa.  I adore tea, it calms me and makes me happy. Lalani and Co have some of the best. I took my own tea pot to French Laundry which was given to me when I left the Wolseley and my own tea.

What one dessert should everyone learn to make?

Lemon Tart, there are so many skills involved and its something everyone loves. If you can make a good Lemon Tart you can make anything, well nearly.

Why do you think home cooks are so fearful of making pastry?

Because they have to measure everything, they generally don't and then wonder why it didn't work out!!! Measure, measure, measure, follow the recipe.  There's no room for winging it until you learn the basics and the science behind it, this frightens most people.

What is the secret to perfect pastry?

Don't over handle the Pastry, don't over work it and rest it as long as possible. Cold hands do work better as does iced water if using in your recipe.

What's next for you?

I would dearly love to have my own all day lounge but I am still in need of investment.

For more information about Claire, including details about her book "Indulge. 100 Perfect Desserts" please visit

No comments:

Post a Comment