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?
Being a pastry chef wasn’t always an obvious choice for me, as I first studied criminal law for 6 years to prepare to become a jail director. I’ve always loved cooking, so my re-conversion was an obvious choice, albeit a little late in the day. I think what I like most about this job is the creative part. I wouldn’t change a thing in my career path, because my studies have served me enormously, in terms of the rigor of work and organization that enable you to progress rapidly within a company.
I did an apprenticeship in a traditional patisserie where I learned the basics.Then I was lucky enough to join the brigade of chef Anne Sophie Pic in Valence, in her 3-star Michelin restaurant. This experience opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities for me, breaking down the conventional limits of flavor combinations. Then, with my husband, we took a gastronomic trip to Africa and the Middle East. We wanted to discover new cultures and gastronomic know-how. Following this trip, we settled in Dubai and I joined the Chef Pierre Gagnaire as executive pastry chef, creating the pastries for both the boutique and the restaurant. I then worked for Classic Fine Foods as a consultant, before setting up my own online patisserie, Ines Chatti Patisserie.
What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you create?
I like things that appear simple. The complexity of taste reveals itself as you taste the cake. And that’s when you realize that it’s not so simple. I like things to be direct and unpretentious, both in taste and visual appearance. I grew up in the mountains, with a garden. I have a very strong attachment to the land, to the soil and to the nature that surrounds us. That’s why I use a lot of aromatic plants. I have a particular affection for flowers, which for me are the quintessence of beauty in its natural state. They shine with color and intoxicate us with their scent. They are very delicate and need to be treated with care. And that’s what I want to convey in my creations.
What’s the latest trend when it comes to baking and patisserie? What is one food (pastry) trend you wish would just go away?
I have the impression that more and more patisseries – apart from star restaurants – are using aromatic plants and flowers. This will allow people to rediscover the use of aromatic plants and their many virtues for human beings, and reconnect with nature. I’m rather tired of seeing trompe l’oeil creations on cakes. It’s all too pretty, but I find that everyone wants to do what Cedric Grolet does, and many are flooding social networks with copies of his videos. It’s about time we saw something new.
What is your baking style and the philosophy behind it?
I have a very worn and elegant style. I believe in ‘less is more’. For me, the most important thing in a creation is the combination of flavors. They have to be right and punchy, with a touch of originality. The cake’s finishing touches sublimate the essence of the creation, but they mustn’t hide a taste deficiency. I like to think of my cakes as flowers: delicate, beautiful and intoxicating. Like nature, if well executed, they stand on their own.
What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product ?
The best comfort food is made by my family. My grandmother’s gratin dauphinois, my mother’s chocolate mousse, my aunt’s fondue savoyarde or my grandmother’s or my aunts’ couscous. Each of these dishes evokes happy memories of sharing them with people I love.
Who or what was your inspiration to become a pastry chef?
What drove me to make my passion for patisserie my profession is really the feeling of happiness you bring to people with something you’ve made with your own hands. Seeing the smiles on people’s lips when they eat a cake I’ve made fills me with happiness too. I think it’s important to be able to contribute to bringing joy to people, and if a cake brings happiness, then I’ll be a pastry chef.
What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?
It’s not an easy job, you have to fight against yourself to keep going and put up with the difficulties of the job. You have to condition yourself to become a fighter and never give up. It’s important to invest yourself and work hard to climb the ladder and live out your dream.
My plans are to grow my business. I’ve just recruited my first employee. Secondly, as I only have an online shop at the moment, I hope to be able to open my first point of sale soon, and then hopefully many more later on.
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?
You can’t separate the good from the beautiful and therefore the artistic dimension of patisserie. So yes, in a way I can call myself a pastry artist. Like any artist, I think that everything around me can inspire me to create. It could be a smell that reminds me of a memory. It could be a door whose engravings inspire me to create lines or shapes. The only limit we know is our imagination. And that’s why I chose this profession and why I love it, it’s its infinite range of creative possibilities, in terms of tastes, shapes and colours. It’s an endless playground. And of course I’m also inspired by artists. I’ve already carried out projects in collaboration with artists: architects, for the shape of a cake, painters for the colours. And I also have projects coming up with three artists: a painter, a ceramist and a designer.
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?
I place great importance on the quality of the produce and try to find local alternatives in Dubai, despite the challenges of farming locally in the desert environment. Working with people like Mohammed from My Farm, who can use their expertise to grow high quality herbs, is a smart approach. His pioneering work in desert farming is commendable, and it’s exciting to see the results in the form of beautiful, tasty herbs. Having a local supplier of decorative flowers and choosing to grow them in the ground is also a sustainable choice. Not only is it an aesthetic choice, it also contributes to the local economy and reduces the impact of imports on the environment.
The fact that we are starting to find more locally grown fruit that meets our criteria is a positive development. It shows that the local farming industry has a chance to thrive and also promotes sustainable development by reducing the carbon footprint associated with importing goods from faraway countries. Overall, we are committed to quality and sustainability, and it is encouraging to see that we are actively seeking out and supporting local alternatives in Dubai’s unique agricultural landscape.
What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations ?
the key to the success of my creations is the masterful balance of flavours. All the flavours come together to create a harmonious combination. It’s essential not to over-sweeten the desserts, otherwise the balance is upset and you can’t taste anything but the sugar. That’s why my pastries are not very sweet.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
When I Design my pastry menu I focus on seasonality and the origin of ingredients. It ensures that you’re using fresh, locally – when possible- available produce, which often results in better quality and flavor. I work around three major flavors, including a spice, flower, or aromatic plant, into my pastries.This not only adds depth and complexity to my desserts but also allows me to showcase a variety of tastes and scents that can make my menu more interesting and appealing to a wide range of customers.
Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?
It’s important to emphasize that my approach aligns with my values and culinary philosophy. Many people have different reasons for their dietary choices, and it’s essential to respect those choices and preferences, whether they are based on health, environmental concerns, or ethical reasons. I decided to prioritize the quality of ingredients and the well-being of animals by opting for products from selected farms. It’s true that some vegan alternative products in the market can contain additives, that’s why I prefer to choose high-quality. However, I am open to accommodating vegan requests for clients. It is a great way to provide inclusivity and cater to a broader customer base. This exercise allows me to showcase my creativity by adapting my skills to meet specific dietary preferences. My focus on the origin and quality of ingredients, along with my willingness to cater to different client preferences, demonstrates a thoughtful and considerate approach to my craft.
What’s your signature dish?
It’s hard for me to choose a signature dessert because I like to change desserts frequently. One of my creations that I’ve had for a while now is a lemon tart. I used kalamansi for the cream because its floral notes bring a freshness and originality to the creation. These sweet notes balance perfectly with the orange blossom, which I import exclusively from Tunisia. This dessert is very delicate, a lemon meringue tart like no other.
How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?
There are more and more chefs with a plant-based approach to patisserie, and the fact that ecological concerns are at the heart of the preoccupations allows great exposure for these chefs with this approach. I think that overall each individual is trying to contribute to the edifice in his or her own way, and that’s what’s most important.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
The creation I’m most proud of is my buche 2023. It all began when I first tasted Nicolas Berger’s 75% dark chocolate from Ecuador. Its floral notes immediately inspired me. My favorite flower is jasmine, so it was natural for me to combine it with this chocolate. I chose to combine these flavors with Morello cherry for its tangy notes that balance this creation.
Recipe for Tahiti :
|Recipe x 1 (= 1 frame)
|Whip the eggs white and add gradually the sugar.
Stiffed almond powder and icing sugar and add them to the white eggs with a spatula.
ð Spread 940 g per frame
ð Cook at 170° for 15 mn
- Vanilla caramel
|Recipe x 1
|Put the gelatin leave into cold water.
Boil cream and let infuse for 20 minutes vanilla inside. Pour through a sieve and keep the cream warm.
Make a light brown caramel with glucose and sugar.
Deglaze with butter and salt, then add gradually the warm cream. Mix it well with a wisk.
ð Cook at 107° the caramel.
ð Add the end add the soaked gelatin and mix with a bamix.
- Vanilla mousse
Vanilla Tahiti pod
|Put gelatin into cold water.
Melt white chocolate.
Heat milk and add vanilla pod and extract. Let infuse for 20 minutes with covered pan.
Pour through a sieve and heat again in order to melt the gelatin inside.
Pour in 3 times into white chocolate to make a beautiful ganache and mix with a bamix.
At 30° add the whipped cream.
- Crunchy speculoos base
|Recipe x 1 (15 pcs)
|Make the speculoos paste smooth and add feuillantine inside.
Assembly for Big:
Make the insert and cut with a 14 cm ring.
Make an upside-down montage with cling film and rodhoid:
- Pour 400 g of vanilla mousse into the mold.
- Place the insert and cover with a bite of mousse. Let it set
- Spread 150 g of speculoos crunchy base.
Glaze the cake with white glaze and décor as you wish.