All young people come to a point in their lives where they must decide their career. It is far preferable to make money from a profession one enjoys, but for many finding such a career is difficult.
A coincidence brought me to the pastry kitchen when I was 17. I fell in love from the very first day with the whole concept of pastry in general. With all respect to chefs, I noticed that it was very different from cooking. It is a craft where an artist can perform visual art in greater freedom than many other related professions.
Pastry art is the combination of carpentry, architecture, engineering, chemistry, painting, 3D designs, and computing, besides just baking, cooking and lot more. Materials used in pastry are so flexible and versatile that you can create working platforms beyond the work bench.
For example, sculptors use clay or stone to perform art. Clay has only one condition of elasticity that all techniques must marry with. The quality of stone curving in one direction reminds me of a movie where the pilot crashes after trying to land an airplane with steering working in one direction.
Let’s think about chocolate as an edible substance. Sometimes it works like clay if you add some glucose in it, and sometimes like a stone which you chisel on, but it can also be painted with or poured onto trays in any thickness, and cut into shapes that immediately stand vertical. You can pour it in moulds. You can even make moulds out of other pastry substances like gelatine. You can add some alcohol in it to pipe nice curves, and the beauty is you can combine all these in to one even use chocolate as glue. What a freedom!
Different sugar dough and mixtures like pastillage, marzipan and royal icing also work like chocolate in their own attitude. I see endless possibilities to express oneself and feel motivated for doing something enjoyable while making a living.
Pastry art will only have an economical value if the performer thoroughly learns the basics and market recognitions are made achievable. Pastry artists without basic pastry knowledge will be unmarketable. Art in pastry can go all the way down to a little rosette on a cup cake, and there are so many nuances in basic piping that you can practice as much as you need.
So where is Australia’s position globally if we talk about pastry art? To answer this question, we have to look at a few different aspects, and honestly, we all have to accept that we are a couple steps behind middle European standard. We are very close but we have a bit more work to do.
I believe the biggest factor is the amount of chemicals we use conveniently in the pastry industry, which has cause the decline in developing young chefs. I don’t think we can avoid it completely, but we can encourage young chefs to learn traditional methods and be proud of it. That’s exactly what Europeans have done since the first egg was whipped. As long as the market doesn’t complain, there will be no change in industry direction to become more hesitant in the use of chemicals. But the question is, how does the market know the difference if they do not start tasting the chemical free products? Education on both ends, at the production and consuming site, is the key issue.
Aside from working many years in Europe and Asia, during my visits to USA and Japan I observed enough to see one significant difference. Tremendous amount of attention must be given to pastry products to make them presentable and pleasing to the eyes before having a bite. Exactly at this point pastry art starts.