Pa­per Bird’s pas­try chef Yu-ching Lee bakes sig­na­ture treats in­spired by her time in top Syd­ney kitchens.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - News - Pa­per Bird, 46a Ma­cleay St, Potts Point, NSW, (02) 9326 9399, pa­per­bir­drestau­rant.com

Igrew up a greedy child, so it was al­most in­evitable that bak­ing would be­come an in­ter­est of sorts. Since my par­ents were fairly strict about what sweets, if any, were al­lowed into the house­hold, I worked out early on that if I made some­thing my­self, I’d get to eat a lot of it. From a beloved chil­dren’s cook­book, I made glacé-cherry-topped cup­cakes, gin­ger­bread folk, flap­jacks and ba­nana flum­mery. Choco­late cake and brown­ies fol­lowed, and so did tarts, al­though I never quite got the hang of short­crust pas­try and de­vel­oped a ter­ri­ble tart anx­i­ety.

Af­ter I grad­u­ated from univer­sity, I de­cided to sign up as an ap­pren­tice chef. This was born par­tially from the frus­tra­tion of not know­ing what I was do­ing in the home kitchen or why things would some­times go wrong. Shak­ing pans in a hot kitchen led to a job in the dessert sec­tion where I in­stantly felt at home.

De­spite the re­ward­ing feel­ing of do­ing some­thing very cre­ative and tech­ni­cal, work­ing in a restau­rant dessert kitchen had its down­sides. I found I could fol­low in­struc­tions and put 20 dif­fer­ent el­e­ments on a plate, but I had no idea what a crémeux was, nor could I con­fi­dently con­struct a sim­ple tart. Mak­ing the even­tual switch to bak­ery work gave me a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion for sim­ple things done well and evoked a sense of nostal­gia. (It also helped me con­quer that dreaded tart anx­i­ety.)

Many kitchen years later (they’re like dog years, thanks to the sheer num­ber of hours per week), I still have no idea what a crémeux is, but have learnt other new things. Time spent in the kitchen at Mar­que ce­mented the idea that sim­plic­ity can still be sur­pris­ing, with un­ex­pected but com­ple­men­tary in­gre­di­ents cre­at­ing lay­ers of flavour. At Brick­fields, I learnt to prize flavour over pre­sen­ta­tion; brown food can be won­der­ful – if some­thing is drab on the out­side, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a disco-flavoured party on the in­side. And it was at Boon Café, un­der the guid­ance of Pal­isa An­der­son, that I re­dis­cov­ered my love for the Asian in­gre­di­ents I’d re­jected as a kid in an ef­fort to fit in.

Lau­rie Col­win once said that the world is di­vided into those who are wait­ing for dessert and those who pro­duce it. If you’re one of the for­mer, you can find most of these treats and more, pro­duced on week­ends at Pa­per Bird Restau­rant in Potts Point. If you’re one of the lat­ter, dive in.

Kaya madeleines with choco­late sauce

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