Pastry Chef Interview with Chef Alison of Le Calabash
Our best selling French cooking vacation is in the Loire Valley, the fabulous Culinary Adventure at Le Calabash Cooking School. But did you know that Chefs Sidney and Alison are also trained pastry chefs, and that they offer special pastry weeks several times a year in order to impart their knowledge of French desserts to their students? What an amazing opportunity to travel to France and study with these two generous and affable teachers.
We had a chance to interview Chef Alison about her love for making French pastries. While she and Chef Sidney share the work of running and teaching at their French culinary school, when it comes to pastries, Alison is in charge.
What is your favorite pastry to make and why?
The Macaron, it is so easy to prepare and is always so popular with everyone. I also enjoy preparing them with new flavor combinations and fillings. I get so upset as very few people actually know what a Macaron should taste of and what the right texture should be. This is due to the market being flooded with factory-produced Macarons that have been prepared with inferior ingredients and egg white powder, and people do not know this.
How and where did you learn the art of pastry making?
I did my Training at College in London and then in the kitchens of Harrods of London, which is one of the finest Pastry Kitchens in London before moving to the kitchens of the Selsdon Park Hotel in Surrey South London where I finished my studies before doing a degree in Hotel Management.
What do your students find the most challenging part of pastry and dessert making?
We ensure our students learn in a relaxed and supportive environment with total support from both of us, and to date they have not had any dish they could not accomplish or find to be a challenge that is not achievable. We strive to bring out the passion and deepen the skills and knowledge of our students in the Pastry Programme.
Do you have any special baking techniques or equipment you particular enjoy using?
In pastry, the understanding and mastering of the Basics is most important, and this is what we focus on with our Pastry Programme. The same applies for our equipment, students need not spend a fortune on gimmicks and unnecessary equipment, just the essentials.
Would you like to share any special pairings of your desserts and pastries with beverages (coffee, wine, liqueur)?
I make a Tanzanian Chocolate Tarte which we love serving with a Ma Mas Amiel Red Natural Red wine. I also make a Tiramisu with an African Coffee reduction and Kahlua which I have been told by several Italian students is the best they have ever tasted. I felt especially proud when I was asked to demonstrate this dish in Tuscany, Italy, last year when we visited a 5-Star Hotel that Sidney was involved in the opening of. The General Manager said it was the finest Tiramisu he ever tasted and insisted it be put on the menu.
Discover the wonder of chef Alison's French desserts and pastries on a cooking vacation! Currently there are two scheduled spring weeks of pastry classes this year at Le Calabash, and one special fall French pastry itinerary in November. One week is already sold out and space is limited for the others. So book now to ensure your spot!
By Peg Kern
Other Chef Interviews
"Seaside Cooking in Portugal": Chef Fernando
"Taste of Bordeaux": Chef Barbara
"Colors of Burgundy": Chef Katherine
"Cook Under the Tuscan Sun": Chef Silvia
"A Cooking Passport to Provence": Chef Berard
"A Culinary Adventure in Umbria": Chef Flavio
"Mediterranean Cooking Experience": Chef Carmen
"A Classic Tuscan Table": Chef Claudio
"A Culinary Adventure at Le Calabash": Chefs Sidney and Alison
"Authentic Experience in Piedmont" : Chef Francesca