The Picasso of Pastry

| August 26, 2005 | 3 Comments
  • 3 Comments

The Picasso of Pastry is none other than the inimitable French pastry chef Pierre Hermé as hailed by French Vogue, and anyone who walks into his jewelry store styled shops is stunned into submission.

André Soltner, the former chef at Lutèce in NYC and one of the deans at my cooking school, admonished us constantly that chefs are not artists, they are craftsmen. He continued that art is permanent; an artist can work on a creation as he pleases whereas a chef gets up every morning and “leaves it on the field” as they say on the gridiron. And you do it every day, day after long, greuling day, in his case for over 40 years. But…

…when it comes to Pierre Hermé and his patisseries, he is not only a dedicated chef producing the finest pastries day after day after day, he is undeniably an artist as his creations are not only visually stunning, they are structurally brilliant. By that I mean the combination of flavors, textures, colors, presentation, and there is always a surprise. In fact one of his pastries is indeed titled Surprise (soo-preeze), a delicate meringue cup filled with various delights.

I was fortunate enough to land an internship at Pierre Hermé Patisserie and it is like being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory — the old one, not the new creepy Tim Burton/Johnny Depp one. I worked in both the laboratoire (main kitchen) in the 15th and the store on rue Bonaparte in the 6th. I had to arrive at 6am. In the laboratoire, we made a few thousand macarons a day! When I worked in the store, my first project each morning was to make a few hundred ispahans, depending on the orders.

The store opens at 10am and on most days there was already a line waiting for a hot-out-of-the-oven almond croissant or hazelnut-truffle macarons or a sugar-coma-sweet rose ispahan filled with raspberries, lychees nuts and rose butter cream topped with a perfect rose petal or the hand-made chocolates flavored with beguiling bergamot or intoxicating passion fruit (my hands down favorite). The store closes at 7pm and most if not all the pastries have been snatched up, at a pretty penny I might add, and no doubt consumed within a few steps of leaving the store. Here is a sampling of the Picasso of Pastry’s art:

café tart

surprise! (soo-preeze!)

chocolate yuzu tart

orange cheesecake (good but not as good as my grandmother’s!)

petits fours

Pierre Hermé Patisserie
72, rue Bonaparte
(across from St Sulpice Church)
Paris 75006
+33 (0) 1 43 54 47 77

185, rue de Vaugirard
(at Metro: Pasteur)
75015 Paris

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About the Author ()

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques Pépin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world's most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse). After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques Pépin's PBS cooking show, "Fast Food, My Way", Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre Hermé Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie. In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. "More Fast Food, My Way" should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. Convivialité is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall. Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!
  • shuna fish lydon

    I have a few questions for You. Can you still eat his desserts having spent hours making the same thing over and over? How long was your internship and how can I get one?

    We are so very lucky to have a living genius in our field. Thank you for the vivid photographs. I still dream of the rose macaroon that silenced me into pure joy.

  • cucina testa rossa

    hi shauna! he really is amazing and so very gracious. said hello, or bonjour as the case may be, and shook hands with *everyone* from dishwasher to head chef to delivery person to lowly intern (moi). I couldn’t eat a thing when i worked there but now I usually pop in to his store once a month for a few macarons (I like to try his new flavors when I can) or a piece of passion fruit chocolate. I can’t eat a whole ispahan as it is too sweet for me and his chocolate gateaux are so rich, a bite is usually all I can muster but every season he has a new “line” of pastries that are amazing. actually, i should pop in and see his “fall collection” as he calls it. I’ll keep you posted. on my next trip home I’ll bring you some rose macarons so save up your sweet tooth, I’ll be back in december! a bientot!

  • sarah hecksteden

    Hi, how are you, my name is Sarah Hecksteden, and I am currently enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America. I wanted to ask you a few questions about working at Pierre Herme Patisserie. He has been a role model of mine for a long time and upon graduation, I would love to possibly work under him. Please try to get back to me so I can ask you a few other questions if at all possible. Thank you.
    Sarah
    Sarahhecksteden@earthlink.net