Matteo Farsoni is an Italian pastry chef and his work experience is divided between two countries: Italy and France. Italy is his home country, but France has always fascinated him since he was a teenager. He visited a lot of beautiful towns and places in France and is currently working in Annecy, also called the little Venice of the Alps, and it is very pleasant to live there according to Matteo.
“I’ve always been passionate about food and especially by sweets since I was a child. After getting my degree, I decided to follow my passion and to become a pastry chef. I first started making traditional Italian desserts and then modern glazed ones. I am now focusing my attention on gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan desserts because I want to give people suffering from a food intolerance or people who decide not to eat animal origin products, some good and tasty alternatives. My aim is to make these people feel satisfied and glad about the desserts they eat and not feel frustrated or excluded anymore. It is not an easy task to do that, because replacing ingredients such as eggs, gelatin or cream can be very challenging at times, but it stimulates you to find new solutions and also your creativity. I think this kind of allergen-free pastry will become more and more important in the years to come and I hope to be able to spread my vision and my knowledge to as many people as possible,” says pastry chef Matteo.
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 been passionate about food, and especially about pastry. However, my path to become a pastry chef has been quite unusual, because I first started studying foreign languages and literature at the university in Italy. During the second year, I understood that I didn’t want to become a teacher or something like that, but I decided to get my degree before changing path, so the third and last year of university I had the opportunity to study abroad in Chambéry, France, where I learnt to speak French very well and I also discovered French Pastry. After my degree, I decided to follow my real passion: Pastry. I entered Alma, La Scuola di Cucina Italiana, one of the most important cooking school in Italy, based near Parma in the middle of the food valley, where I followed an intensive one year pastry course to become a pastry chef. I was also given the chance to do a six month internship in Strasbourg, in Thierry Mulhaupt pastry lab, member of the Relais Dessert. I wouldn’t change anything about my path because everything I did, it has been a useful personal and professional experience to me.
What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you create?
My aim is to give people suffering from a food intolerance or diabetes the possibility to eat high quality desserts that can satisfy the customers needs visually, but especially in terms of taste. That’s why I decided to focus my attention on gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan pastry in order to give people some tasty alternatives to the traditionals ones to make them feel satisfied and not frustrated anymore.
What’s the latest trend when it comes to baking and patisserie?
I think that an interesting trend that is developing in recent years is to give much more importance to the quality of the ingredients used to make a dessert, in order to enhance the main flavour and also to reduce the amount of sugar because in the past, pastry chefs used to put a huge amount of sugar in desserts and this was very unhealthy.
What is one food (pastry) trend you wish would just go away?
I think that nowadays there is a tendency to give much more importance to the visual aspect of the dessert at the expense of the flavour. I think, for example, to the trend of making cakes that look really appealing, but they are really heavy in terms of texture and the taste is not so good.
What is your baking style and the philosophy behind it?
I really like making single-portion desserts, because you can make them in advance and then you just have to decorate them at the last moment before serving. I like trying new combinations of flavours, for example chamomile, raspberry and almond is a very good combination to me, but I also like traditionals unions like chocolate and hazelnut or coffee. The most important thing to me is to enhance the flavour of the ingredients I use, so I try to reduce as much as possible the amount of sugar and I always add a pinch of salt to boost the taste of my preparations and I tend not to put more than three main flavours in my desserts because otherwise you can’t recognise them clearly in my opinion.
What’s your favourite comfort food?
My comfort food is pizza. I like trying new combinations of flavours, but after a tiring day, a simple well-made buffalo cheese pizza is the best way to feel better.
What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product ?
I really love Tiramisu because my mother used to make it very often when I was a child, but I also have a thing for Panettone with chocolate and candied oranges, in fact some years ago I ate half of a one kilo Panettone on my own during a meal.
Who or what was your inspiration to become a pastry chef?
My main inspiration to become a pastry chef was Cedric Grolet. he is a talented pastry chef that everyone knows and I admire him because of his great creativity and technique. A new phase started for the pastry world with him, in fact the majority of pastry chefs took and take inspiration from what he did and does nowadays.
What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?
I have two pieces of advice to give to aspiring pastry chefs; the first one is not to give up. If pastry is your passion, follow it, do not give up just because the path is hard or difficult, one day you will get where you want if you keep going and persevere.. The second advice is about humility. Great chefs, world champions are people who never lose their humility even after achieving great results. If you stay humble, you will see that you can always learn something new from each situation and from every person, not only at work but also in your life.
I started focusing on gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan desserts to give as many people as possible the chance to be able to eat tasty and great quality desserts. My aim is to collaborate with brands to develop a new line of zero-allergen desserts worldwide. I would also like to travel around the world giving courses and holding conferences to share my knowledge about these topics.
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?
No I do not consider myself as an artist, I create something that is aesthetically appealing and that could create emotions in people, but art is something more noble to me. There are lots of forms of art but I think art is something that lasts over time while a dessert is something ephemeral. However, I also think that art and pastry have something in common, for example, each piece of art is unique, it cannot be easily reproduced as the original one, and I think it is the same thing for a dessert; if you change the quantity of an ingredient or the technique you will never get the same result. Regarding the creation of my pastries, I usually take inspiration from nature, animals, landscapes. everything that surrounds us can be a potential source of inspiration and I also take inspiration from other pastry chefs, of course, because in our world we influence each other.
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?
Local consumption is really important nowadays to support local producers, but also to get superior quality products according to seasonality. I try to use local ingredients such as hazelnuts or walnuts, and i use seasonal ingredients such as citrus fruits during the winter season, or peaches and apricots during summer. However, in our job it is not easy to use only local ingredients, because many of the most requested ingredients, such as chocolate, coffee, vanilla, exotic fruits are not available in Europe so we are forced to import them.
What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations ?
Simplicity is a key feature of my pastry creations, but it must not be confused with banality. I always try to enhance the flavour of the ingredients that I use in my desserts by removing anything unnecessary. The term ‘Less is more’ is really significant to me because I analyze each component of my dessert and then I decide if it is important for the final result or not. That’s why I find vegan pastry very interesting, because it allows you to boost the taste of your preparation and to create tastier desserts by avoiding using ingredients that change the flavour such as cream or eggs.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
Seeing that the dessert always comes at the end of the meal, I try to create light desserts with creamy and soft textures, but with a crunchy part in order to make customers want to finish it and not to be bored. Another important thing I keep in mind when crafting my menu is seasonality, in fact even if I tend to always propose one chocolate dessert, the other ones change according to seasonality and to what nature offers us.
Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?
No, at the beginning of my career I wouldn’t consider being a vegan chef, because vegan pastry was made with low quality ingredients and vegan desserts did not taste good, but nowadays I think that vegan pastry is something sought-after, especially among young generations. There has been a lot of research in vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free pastry in the last few years and we can now eat very good desserts. It is sometimes challenging to create new desserts by avoiding using traditionals ingredients, such as eggs, cream or gelatin, but this is also the amusing part of the job because it stimulates your creativity and to find new solutions.
What’s your signature dish?
My signature dish is called Harmony, it is made of a cocoa shortbread, filled with a frangipane cream, a chocolate cream covered by a pumpkin cream piping. I add some salt crystals just before the tasting to boost all the flavours.
How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?
I think communication about sustainability is very important nowadays because more and more customers pay attention to this aspect. Many chefs and restaurants started focusing on this aspect by respecting seasonality, by supporting local producers, by avoiding any food waste and they can communicate these approaches towards sustainability throughout marketing campaigns or just by using social networks.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
I think the creation I am most proud of is a biscuit that is quite simple in terms of appearance, but it is very complex as for the technique and the flavour. I made lots of tests before getting the result I had in mind and this biscuit is a vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, allergen-free biscuit that does not contain any strange ingredient, but it is the result of a complex balance of just eight simple ingredients that if they are well combined, they allow you to get an amazing, very tasty and crunchy biscuit.
Gluten-free, vegan pumpkin cake
- Fine rice flour 100 g
- Fine corn flour 40 g
- Potato starch 60 g
- Almond powder 40 g
- Baking 6 g
- Baking soda 4 g
- Salt 4 g
- Cinnamon 5 g
- Ginger powder 3 g
- Nutmeg 2 g
- Pumpkin puree 230 g
- Sugar 200 g
- Water 130 g
- Sunflower oil 85 g
- Vinegar 5 g
- Cut the pumpkin into quarters. Cook it at 200° for about 40 minutes. Mix it to obtain a smooth puree.
- Mix the pumpkin puree with sugar, water, vinegar and sunflower oil.
- Sift the powders.
- Add the powders and mix the ingredients until you obtain a homogeneous and smooth mixture.
- Pour the mixture into the mould and cook it at 165° for about 50 minutes.
This is a recipe of a gluten-free and vegan cake. It is really soft and moist and very easy to make. I think it is very good to be eaten on its own or it can replace a sponge in modern desserts, but I like eating it with a chocolate ganache topping. It is perfect during winter time because of the pumpkin and of the spices.