Michael Kwan is the Executive Pastry Chef at The Dorchester, London’s iconic landmark hotel. With a culinary journey that commenced at age 15 in Hong Kong kitchens, Michael has garnered extensive experience from prestigious establishments such as Hotel Café Royal, Ladurée, Hakkasan, and The Fat Duck. At The Dorchester, Michael leads a team of 26 chefs, overseeing the signature afternoon tea at The Promenade, Cakes and Flower Shop, Par Café, and all luxury rooms. His artisan-ship extends to creating exquisite pastries and desserts for weddings, parties, and events throughout the property.
Fusing precision and creativity, Michael defines pastry as a harmonious blend of science and art. His accolades include the title of UK Sugar Champion in 2019, European Cup Champion in 2022, and a notable fourth-place finish at the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie in 2023. Currently serving as the UK Pastry Team President, he leads the team in preparations for the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie 2025.
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 began my career in Hong Kong, like many others after finishing college. Through a program, I landed an internship at a hotel. The chef arrange for me to work in the pastry kitchen. During that period, the Executive Pastry Chef, Alan, was launching a cake shop at the hotel. Serving as his assistant throughout my internship, I was inspired by the delicacy and creativity of being a pastry chef. This experience ignited my passion, and I’ve continued in this role ever since.
What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you create?
I prefer my food to have a straightforward and simple taste. For instance, if I order a lemon tart, I anticipate a strong lemon flavor, creaminess from the cream and a crispy texture from the tart – that’s what I appreciate. Additionally, I enjoy incorporating seasonal fruits and various ingredients to enhance the taste and color in my dishes.
What’s the latest trend when it comes to baking and patisserie? What is one food (pastry) trend you wish would just go away?
The latest trend in pastry and bakery seems to focus on everyday, easily accessible options—simple, not overly decorated or colorful, suitable for daily consumption. Personally, I tend to steer clear of macaroons due to their excessive sweetness and overly vibrant coloring, often containing an abundance of artificial color additives.
What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product ?
I enjoy Cantonese Roast Duck as my favorite dish, often opting for quick service at a nearby Chinese restaurant to relax and savor the flavors. As for pastries, the buttery and slightly acidic taste of a lemon drizzle cake perfectly complements a cup of tea.
What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?
Working in a high-pressure industry, I believe in the importance of hard work and addressing last-minute orders. For younger individuals, asking questions is crucial as there’s often a reason behind tasks, making it essential to understand the ‘why’ every day.
Currently, the executive pastry position at the Dorchester, where my focus remains on creating high-quality products, delivering exceptional customer experiences, nurturing a strong team, and continuing to train the younger members. Additionally, I serve as the team president for the UK pastry team in the upcoming Leon 2025 competition, aiming for a successful outcome.
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?
I consider myself an artist, using colors to craft new dishes while ensuring a delightful taste. The vibrant green of pistachios, the bold red of strawberries and raspberries, and the sunny yellow from various citrus fruits offer a palette to create diverse products. Inspired by nature’s elegant movements, I find joy in designing culinary experiences.
The topic of local food, from smaller, specialized and personally known producers, is becoming more important. What are some of your local partners from whom you source?
London stands as a global city, making it effortlessly accessible for chefs to procure ingredients worldwide. This attribute proves invaluable for culinary experts who utilize local resources to showcase the essence of their creations. This year, we crafted a honey cake to commemorate a coronation celebration, sourcing honey from our sister hotel, Coworth Park.
Which is your signature preparations as a pastry chef ?
I am extremely proud of One of the creations developed in 2021 for the UK pastry team at the Pastry World Cup called Strawberry and tea Eton Mess. It is an exquisite afternoon tea experience representing the essence of the UK. Featuring two distinct flavors in British afternoon tea – strawberry jam and Earl Grey tea – my signature dish is a strawberry meringue case filled with Earl Grey tea ice cream, topped with English strawberry Earl Grey tea cream, presenting an elegant and delicious treat reminiscent of an Eton mess.
What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations ?
When it comes to the debate of taste versus appearance on Instagram, my belief is that taste always takes precedence since food is meant to be savored. However, a visually appealing presentation is also important, and I foresee the need to strike a balance between the two in the future.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
Maintaining balance in the menu is crucial, considering starters, main courses and desserts. Variety in desserts is key, ensuring a refreshing and satisfying conclusion to a meal. Avoiding overly heavy desserts is essential, as people may be too full to appreciate them. Sometimes a heavy dessert is not the best option to finish a meal.
Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?
I don’t plan to become a vegan chef because I still enjoy having butter on my bread. However, recognizing the growing number of vegan customers, we’ve developed numerous vegan recipes. A recent favorite is our coconut rice pudding made with coconut milk, coconut purée, and coconut sugar. It is topped with roasted pineapple, crispy puff rice, and coconut-pineapple sorbet—all vegan, gluten-free, and diet-friendly, yet incredibly delicious.
How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?
A pastry chef can communicate the innovative approach of sustainable, plant-based food by creating visually appealing menu descriptions highlighting the use of eco-friendly ingredients. Collaborating with the hotel’s marketing team to showcase these offerings on social media and in promotional materials can further spread awareness.
- 150g Strawberry Puree
- 75g Strawberry Juice
- 1.5g Hyfoamer
- 4.5g Egg White Powder
- 115g Sugar
- 20g Dry Strawberry
Combine all ingredients and whip for 4 minutes. Pipe the meringue onto the silicone mat, sprinkle with dried strawberries, and dehydrate for 4 hours until dry.
Tea Infusion for ice cream
- 1000g Milk
- 100g Red Fruit Tea
Heat the milk to 90°C, infuse for 5 minutes, then strain.
Tea Ice Cream
- 791g Tea Infusion
- 216g Sour Cream
- 51g Skimmed Milk Powder
- 26g Dextrose
- 26g Glucose Powder
- 182g Light Brown Sugar
- 8g Stab 2000
Warm the tea infusion to 40°C, add dry ingredients, and cook to 80°C. After cooling, mix in sour cream and churn in an ice cream machine.
- 200g Capfruit Strawberry Puree
- 4g Ultratex
- 5g Lime Juice
Blend all ingredients until thick.
- 100g Strawberry Gel
- 300g Diced strawberry
Mix all together
Tea Infusion for meringue
- 1000g Water
- 30g Tea
Warm water to 90°C, infuse with tea for 5 minutes, and add 30% sugar at the end.
- 150g Tea Infusion
- 3g Milk Proteins
- 0.5g Xanthan Gum
- 75g Trehalose
Whip ingredients for 4 minutes, pipe meringue onto a silicone mat and dehydrate for 4 hours until dry.
- Tea infusion
- Fresh Strawberry
Put strawberries and tea infusion together, then use a vacuum machine.
Tea Infusion for pastry cream
- 400g Milk
- 24g Tea
Heat milk to 95°C, infuse with cream for 10 mins, and strain.
Tea Pastry Cream
- 250g Milk Infusion
- 87.5g Cream UHT
- 87.5g Light Brown Sugar
- 25g Custard Powder
- 50g Yolk
- 10g Butter
Combine milk, cream, yolk, and sugar. Cook to make pastry cream, adding butter at the end.
Place the meringue case on a plate, pipe tea ice cream in the center. Top with compressed strawberries, pipe tea pastry cream between gaps, decorate with crispy strawberry meringue, tea meringue, and a few Marigold leaves to finish.