Paris through the eyes of pastry chef Ben Goh
Making a trip to Paris in the middle of the dead cold winter, is not the most ideal plan, but for me it was a necessary one. I was in the French capital for Mondial Des Arts Sucrés in February, an widely recognised pastry competition that has been running for the past 10 years. It was held over the span of four days, and I took this chance to extend my trip and explore the wonderful sights and take in the aromas of the city.
Buttery, flaky goodness
Being in the birthplace of croissants, I had to start my day in Paris with this buttery, flaky goodness and a cup of coffee. And so I did – for all 19 days of my trip!
If there is one place you should visit in Paris, this is it. Du Pain et des Idées, meaning Bread and Ideas, might be a little out of the way from where most tourists are staying (I took a 20-minute train ride from Holiday Inn Paris Opera - Grands Blvds), but it’s well worth it. I really do believe they are one of the best bakeries in Paris – I was told chefs from other restaurants would come here in the morning to queue for their croissants. The croissant flavour to get here is the Pistachio Chocolate Escargot. I thanked my lucky stars that they had a fresh batch when I was there. The feeling of sinking my teeth into the soft, warm, buttery and flaky pastry was so unforgettable I went back for a second round that day and brought a friend to try more pastries. This time, I got the peach-topped pastry and it was also amazing. There might be a line when you get there in the morning., but don’t let that discourage you because the queue moves really fast. (It’s closed on Saturdays and Sundays though.)
If you’re the kind of person who gets excited over words like organic flour, sourdough starters and fermentation, come to Utopie. Their organic Boule aux graines et céréales are packed full of seeds and crunchies. At four euros for a quarter, sliced from a giant loaf, it was sizable enough to last me a couple of days.
Famed for his technique of piping cream in a concentric circular pattern with the help of a turntable, Yann Brys, recipient of the coveted Mielleur Ouvrier de France 2011, his deupty head chef, Hsing Wei Chen invited me to his pâtisserie for a taste of his creations. Even though it’s located a little further from the main city, Pâtisserie Tourbillon is a hit with the locals – when I was there, the place was packed. I was greeted with an array of gorgeously plated desserts and had a hard time deciding what I want. Ultimately I went for Brys’ Grapefruit Cheesecake as well as Lemon Tart, which were equally light and addictive – so much so that I finished four slices of each dessert! Of course, I couldn’t give up on the chance of asking Brys for tips on how to improve my upcoming competition creations: he told me to add citrus caviar (finger lime) to my Citrus Blossom in Garden, a vegan dessert with hazelnut crumble and Mandarin orange marmalade, for an added oomph.
If you’re a candy maker, bread baker or pastry chef and you’re in the City of Light, you owe it to yourself to head straight to Mora. You might also want to bring an empty suitcase for all the items you will end up purchasing. This large shop in the Les Halles district is crammed from top to bottom shelves with more than 5,000 items to meet every culinary need, including pots, pans, kitchen machines, tableware, silverware and even cleaning and disinfecting products. Looking for silicon baking sheets and trays, chocolate molds, or tart pans? Mora’s got them.
There are basic gadgets like candy thermometers, rolling pins and whisks as well as specialised products, such as edible inks and colourful transfer sheets used to decorate chocolates. There’s nothing a pastry chef or bread maker could ever want that’s not carried by Mora. The selection is simply unparalleled and it is a must-visit.
Another happy place in Paris is Librairie Gourmande, a twostorey bookstore that sells only culinary books, recipe books and everything about food. Located on the picturesque Rue Montmartre, I was in awe when I stepped into the store – my eyes were constantly distracted by many new finds. Here, you can pick up the latest tome by a famous chef (Save with Jamie, perhaps, or René Redzepi’s A Work in Progress), or lose yourself browsing the astonishing range of vintage and modern titles on all aspects of cooking, food and wine. From Elizabeth David to Nigella Lawson, to food-themed comic books and a world atlas on wine, you’ll be spoilt for choice. After spending an entire day in the store, I lugged back eight cookbooks.
Utopie, a popular bakery spot among the Parisians
A croissant a day, keeps the doctor away
One of my competition dishes, Citrus Blossom in Garden.
Fuelled by his love for sweets, award-winning chef Ben Goh began his career as a pastry chef at 15. Under the tutelage of local pâtissiers like Kenny Kong, he won multiple accolades at competitions. One was the 2013 Dubai World Hospitality Championship when he emerged top. He was 1st runner up at the 2015 Top Patisserie in Asia Tokyo Cake Show, and ranked world no. 6 at the 2016 Gelato World Cup Rimini. He was team captain. At Intercontinental Singapore, he heads the pastry and bakery team and is recognised for delicate afternoon tea presentations and stunning pastry creations.
My go-to lunch during competition days.
With Yann Brys and his deupty head chef, Hsing Wei Chen
The beautiful pastries from Du Pain et des idées