Armed with more than a decade of pastry experience, Roger Fok started as a junior pastry chef after receiving a certification of Bakery and Pastry (Western) at the Hospitality Industry Training and Development Centre (HITDC) and he is currently a Senior Instructor at the International Culinary Institute. He assists in managing and educating all students of pastry courses in the campus. He has all along contributed in the training of bakery, pastry and confectionery. mostly, creating practical or theoretical material.
Over the past ten years, Roger has worked very hard in mastering many different skills through practical experience and formal training on Modern French Pastry, Chocolate Work and Sugar Work. Roger has acted as the right-hand man to oversee the whole programme of Diploma in Bakery, Pastry and Confectionery right from training, renewing teaching material, coordinating with other departments, purchasing and inventory control to administrative support on budgeting and manpower planning.
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 enjoyed watching my mom cook when I was young, which fostered my love for delicious food. Subsequently, I pursued a pastry programme and discovered the unique blend of food and artistic elements that the pastry industry offers, which enticed me to join this field. As I have gained experience in the industry over an extended period, I have come to realize that there is always more to learn, and this realization has fueled the growth of my passion for pastry. Furthermore, I believe that pastry is a delightful way to bring happiness to people through the joy of indulging in delicious creations. Being a pastry chef is the only career I have ever wanted, and I believe my mind won’t change anymore. It has become my profession, and I am proud of it.
What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you create?
My creations always focus on taste and texture, and I enjoy incorporating Asian ingredients into my dishes. Additionally, I appreciate clean and streamlined design. For instance, I consider it a failure if I create a dessert with non-edible decorations.
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 believe Viennoiserie is the latest modern trend, offering a delightful fusion of pastries and bakery items with endless possibilities. The fine Viennoiserie nowadays is not just for daily needs, but also a combination of art and skills. I have seen numerous visually appealing and delicious Viennoiserie creations from around the world, showcasing vibrant colors and irresistible flavors. On the other hand, I am not particularly fond of celebration fondant cakes or cookies. They do require skills and are visually stunning, but most of the decorations are made entirely of fondant, which does not enhance the taste or enjoyment of the treat. Those are the most non-edible pastry to me.
What is your baking style and the philosophy behind it?
I enjoy creating innovative dishes and avoiding duplicating others’ work. Each creation serves a distinct purpose, whether it be bringing joy to people, conveying a message, showcasing the skills of a pastry chef, and more.
What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pastry or cake or baked product?
Dumplings made by my mom are my ultimate comfort food. I adore the harmonious blend of dough, vegetables, and meat, and they evoke cherished childhood memories. As for my favorite dessert, it would undoubtedly be Tiramisu. Its exquisite combination of flavors is simply unparalleled. Interestingly, when I’ve spoken to numerous pastry chefs, I’ve discovered that Tiramisu is also their preferred dessert.
Who or what was your inspiration to become a pastry chef?
The nature of pastry and bakery itself. It is characterized by a beautiful outlook and a strong scientific knowledge behind it, and it brings happiness to people. My first job was to work in a local bakery, I could not understand why I needed to add salt at the last stage when I am mixing the dough, then I tried to find out the reason and that was because the salt will limit the yeast development. To me, a pastry chef is not only a chef, but we are also scientists and artists.
What is your advice to aspiring pastry chefs?
Nowadays, in the ever-changing industry and environment, knowledge can be easily obtained from various sources. But when it comes to the pastry industry, my advice is:
- The professionalism of a pastry chef is of utmost importance.
- The process of mastering a skill is the most beautiful part. ‘You might spend one day to learn one skill, but you have to spend one year to master it.’
- Technology can be a useful tool for creating process, but don’t forget the basics.
- Stay hungry to learn.
Since 2019, I have been a teacher at a culinary school. My goal is to inspire the younger generation and help them find joy in the art of pastry and bakery making. Many young individuals dream of becoming pastry chefs, and I am dedicated to support them when they pursuit of their dreams. Furthermore, I strive to encourage them to embrace professionalism in their craft and to continuously develop their skills and knowledge in the field.
In addition, as the team coach of the Hong Kong Young Pastry Team, I hope that the team can achieve outstanding results in international-level competitions such as World Skills and the Junior Pastry World Cup. This will contribute to the advancement of the young pastry chef generation and enhance their skills.
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?
Yes, a pastry chef is an artist and our creations are edible works of art. We skillfully use a wide array of ingredients to craft unique and professional art pieces, showcasing the distinct skills of a pastry chef. Indeed, I get inspiration from various artists, including Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, Andy Firth, and many others. Inspiration can be found in every aspect of life. When I immerse myself in my surroundings, ideas spontaneously come to my minds, leading to a wealth of creative possibilities.
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?
Hong Kong is an international city. It is effortless to source and import any premium brands or ingredients from all over the world. But it is also our industry responsibility to use local ingredients from our hometown Hong Kong to conserve the roots and culture here. We have local brands like bread flour, honey, and sugar, or for culinary purposes, the local three yellow chickens are also widely used in the Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants.
What would you say is the key/winning feature of your creations?
My creations always possess an innovative outlook, aiming to impress people through a simple combination of ingredients while still honoring the fundamental techniques.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
I believe that the most crucial aspect of creating a menu is achieving balance. This encompasses balancing the flavors, ingredients, health aspects, and historical influences, among other factors.
Have you ever considered being a vegan chef? How practical is it being a pastry chef?
Not really, but I appreciate the efforts of many chefs who are exploring the possibilities of vegan pastry. Nowadays, there is a growing demand for vegan options, and I have noticed that many vegan recipes are healthier than their traditional counterparts, with lower levels of fat and sugar. I believe that every pastry chef should consider incorporating vegan ingredients and techniques into their repertoire.
But for me, somehow the unique flavor of butter is not replaceable. Hence, vegan creations don’t mean switching a butter-cream-egg traditional recipe to a free version, but creating something new or looking for ingredients that can create new desserts that is vegan. For examples, the inspirations form the traditional Chinese desserts Bingfen (Ice Jelly), Crystal Bread made of kuzu starch.
What’s your signature dish?
My chocolate work, including dessert, bonbons, and showpieces. “Aviator” is one of my signature creations inspired by the story of the Wright brothers’ creation of the airplane.
How can restaurants/ hotels/ chefs communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains to others?
Through education, in my opinion, a great dining experience should serve as an educational journey that enables customers to comprehend the significance of sustainable food trends.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
‘The City Outline’ won the Best Bonbon Award in the Asia Young Pastry Challenge. However, ever since I became a teacher, my proudest ‘dish or creation’ has become my students. I am proud when they draw inspirations from me to pursuing a career as pastry chefs, getting awards in the competitions, opening their own shops, and more. Witnessing their career development fills me with even greater pride.
The CITY OUTLINE
This creations is a short shelf-life bonbon that combines almond meringue and praline with a vinegar called, ‘The Lion Heart’ which is made with overripe plums, elderberries and freshly plucked pine. It tastes delicious and is healthy.
- Dark chocolate 200G
- Green cocoa butter 20G
- White cocoa butter 20G
- Gold powder | 5G
- Melt the chocolate, cocoa butter and gold powder together.
- temper the chocolate for molding
THE LION HEART
- The lion heat vinegar | 8G
- Glucose | 20G
mix and fill the mixture in molds.
- Milk powder | 7G
- Milk chocolate | 36G
- Cocoa butter | 28G
- Almond | 100G
- temper the chocolate and cocoa butter for use.
- mix the almond praline, tempered chocolate, milk powder and salt.
- Pour into the mold.
- Egg whites 20
- Sugar 36gm
- Almond Powder 10gm
- Corn starch 4gm
- mix the almond powder with cornstarch.
- whip up the egg white with sugar to make the meringue
- fold in the powder and dry.