CHEF’S TRAV­EL­OGUE

Paris through the eyes of pas­try chef Ben Goh

Epicure - - CONTENTS -

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.

Baker’s par­adise

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

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