By Julie Couture
International Culinary Center Graduate
Professional Pastry Arts 2014
When Dorothy Cann Hamilton, Founder and CEO of the International Culinary Center, introduced Pastry Chef Jordi Roca to the students and special guests of his master class on June 30, she remarked his presentation would be the highlight of our careers.
She wasn’t kidding.
Prior to attending the master class, I did my homework about Chef Jordi, who was named the World’s Best Pastry Chef of 2014 by Restaurant magazine. He, along with his two brothers, are the chefs and owners of the Three-Michelin Star restaurant El Celler De Can Roca in Girona, Spain. Each is an expert in his designated position: Joan the culinary chef, Josep the sommelier, and Jordi the pastry guru. Chef Jordi is more than a pastry chef – he is an artist and innovator, known for creating desserts inspired by scents and flavors in colognes.
His master class didn’t focus on his individual creations but rather, on the influences he and his brothers share in developing dishes. Landscape, tradition, family – all of these and more are important to them in constructing a cohesive menu. Each dish he demonstrated during the class was indicative of his commitment to these influences.
Chef’s first demonstration involved pulled sugar. Sitting on a Silpat® under a heat lamp, the red pulled sugar was soon to become more than just a blob in Chef’s skilled hands.
Pulled sugar can be pulled and formed into shapes, or it can be turned into blown sugar through the use of a small pump. It seems easy – attach the pulled sugar to the end of a tube connected to a pump and with careful, slow pressure, pump air into the sugar to form its designated shape. In reality, it is difficult. Too much pressure or uneven placement of the sugar creates holes, resulting in a loud “pop!” signaling this effort was unsuccessful.
Chef Jordi clearly has mastered this technique. There were no loud pops, no frustrating looks, no do-overs. Calmly and methodically, he applied the appropriate amount of pressure, molding the blown sugar into the shape of a red beet. He finished the display with the addition of green “leaves” and “dirt.” The result was nothing less than impressive.
Another demonstration focused on the beauty of the artichoke. Cutting the artichoke in half, he revealed the flower in its center. Chef used the artichoke’s center as the focal point in a dessert featuring a variety of crèmes.
None of the creations Chef Jordi made were simple or easy, even though he made it look effortless. As an expert pastry chef, Chef Jordi hones his skills through persistence, practice, and patience, allowing him to master his craft. As a creative genius, he finds inspiration in the unlikeliest of places and turns unassuming objects into works of beauty.
During the master class, Chef offered encouraging words to those of us who are about to embark on our careers as culinary and pastry chefs: Nothing is impossible. As talented and gifted as Chef is, I imagine it took him more than one try to perfect his techniques and skills. It is helpful to remember this when learning new skills. We may not get it right the first time but with practice, we will get better.
After all was said and done, Ms. Cann Hamilton was right; watching Chef Jordi Roca work and listening to his wisdom was a highlight I will not soon forget.