Amit Arya, the Executive Pastry Chef at the InterContinental London – The O2 has over 20 years of experience working in show-stopping Patisserie for Luxury Hotels and has honed his craft in both the United Kingdom and Asia.
With a passion for training and mentoring young people, Amit has spent almost a decade dedicating his career to supporting young people interested in hospitality and baking. At his previous workplace, Amit started his own personal development programme for young bakers and supported them in country-wide competitions. Each month at the InterContinental London – The O2, Chef Amit is still hosting young interns in his kitchen, educating them on the importance of their craft and notes the long-term sustainability of baking in our lives.
“Knowing how to bake is a life-long skill that every young person should have; take bread for example, it’s the staple in so many cultures and there will always be a demand for it,” he says.
What inspired you to become a pastry chef? You’ve been in the industry for quite some time. Would you have done anything differently when first starting out?
I’ve always had a sweet tooth and great liking for desserts from childhood, so I decided that all I wanted was to be a pastry chef. When I first started, all of my focus was on learning and developing my patisserie and bakery skills. Only in the later stage of my career I started taking pictures and compiling my recipes in digital formats, I wish I would have started from my early days, because these are still in my old diaries but certainly very valuable assets.
What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you create?
I always wanted to be different, always believed in trying unique ingredients and recipes. Most of the time I get lucky and the ideas work, although I believe in simplicity and complimenting a highlighted ingredient especially when in season. For instance, dishes highlighting mangoes or berries in the summer or celebrating an apple in autumn is something I believe in. Seasonality is something I really enjoy when creating my menus.
What’s the latest trend when it comes to baking and patisserie? What is one food (pastry) trend you wish would just go away?
It is all about visuals now days, good looking patisserie displays on the windows of patisserie shops or Instagram friendly pictures for your posts. Social media has turned patisserie into artwork and we as pastry chefs are very much aware of this trend. Not only should it be visually exceptional, but the taste should be divine. Palates of people have changed and they always like to try something different. It is not just about a simple patisserie anymore it is about taking it to the next level. I am not a fan of over loaded sweets and desserts with sprinkles, cream, and toppings. I have seen these a lot now days and I am sure it will fade away.
What is your baking style and the philosophy behind it?
Baking is something I love to do more than cream desserts. My style of baking is always sticking to the basics. Basics of baking will never change. Yes, the recipes will but basics will stay the same. When I bake a bread I believe in showing a lot of love right from activating yeast to serving it and a lot of process happens in between. The main thing is you must add a special ingredient to which ever recipe you make and that is love and care and I can assure you it will never fail.
What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product?
My favourite comfort food must be a Punjabi samosa and Masala Chai (I miss that being in London as this can’t happen every day). A simple sourdough bread with a dollop of butter will do any time for me as well. Anything with chocolate is something I cannot resist too.
Who or what was your inspiration to become a pastry chef?
When I started my career I worked under Beat Loeffel he was our Executive Pastry Chef at The Leela Mumbai, I can proudly say he was my inspiration and mentor.
What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?
There is no short cut to success, hard work and dedication is something tat is needed when you start your career, if you can just focus on this mindset, everything else should fall into place.
I would like to open a high-end Patisserie Shop in London. This is my dream and is a plan which I am working on for the future.
Would you consider yourself as an artist? Are you inspired by artists when you create your pastries? When you create different products everyday where do you get inspired from?
People around me think I am an artist but I will consider myself a simple craftsman. Yes certainly, any artist or craftsman from a different trade totally inspires me to create something similar with a food medium. My inspiration comes from my surroundings: a walk in the woods or while enjoying the scenes around the bank of the river Thames, beautiful monuments, museums; anything can inspire me.
What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations?
I believe that good classic base knowledge and out of the box thinking is the winning factor for my creations.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
Seasonal produce and balance of flavours and textures without over complicating the palate. A dessert or patisserie should taste what it says. Any fusion should only enhance the final product without compromising its authenticity.
Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?
I don’t think I will ever be a vegan Chef; it’s a lifestyle choice and I love tasting all kinds of foods from around the world. It can be very challenging to match creativity, taste and visuals of vegan desserts to the originals, but things have progressed tremendously in the pastry world. We are now seeing a lot of ingredients which prove to be a close match to the original ingredients, but the original will always be the original.
What’s your signature dish?
I have created quite a few signature desserts although my favourite is the Iced Banoffee Parfait, which is my personal take on a British classic banoffee pie. I do enjoy putting my own personal twist on classic recipes.
Which dish have you created that you are most proud of and why?
I had the honour of creating desserts for Her Majesty The Queen and I would consider that to be the dessert which I will be proud of as not many chefs in their career gets this opportunity. It was a simple dessert; a vanilla panna cotta with seasonal berries and orange tuile, but great attention to detail was used in sourcing every single ingredient and of course it never passed the doors into the kitchen without many tests!
recipe of Iced Banoffee Parfait
Serves 10 portions
- 180 grams free range egg yolk
- 200 grams castor sugar
- 70 ml water
- 120 grams ripe banana puree
- 500 ml double cream
- Whisk egg yolk in the kitchen aid mixer
- Boil sugar and water to 105 degree c and add to the egg yolk,
- Keep on whisking till it is fluffy and cool
- Add ripe banana puree and fold in whipped double cream
- Fill the mix in the ice-cream bar moulds and freeze it overnight
Caramelia Chocolate Glaze
- 500 grams Valrhona Caramelia 36%
- 250 grams cocoa butter
- Melt chocolate and cocoa butter and blend and use at 35 degree c
Crushed Caramel Brittle
- 100 grams castor sugar
- 10 grams butter
- Melt sugar to light golden colour on heavy bottom pan add butter and pour over a non-stick tray and cool it down
- Crush into small chunks
- 100 grams Castor Sugar
- 100 ml Double Cream
- 100 grams Butter
Melt sugar in a heavy bottom pan to a golden caramel stage then add cream and butter ,boil and leave to cool down.
Assembly and serving
Dip the frozen parfait in the caramelia chocolate glaze and sprinkle the caramel brittle over it . Serve with torched sliced fresh banana and caramel sauce.