The ultimate Halloween treat, we learn how to make activated charcoal croissants from scratch
Growing up in Pretoria, Jason discovered his passion for food at a very early age. He studied Hotel and Restaurant Management at the Swiss Hotel School in Johannesburg, after which he landed his first job at The CellarsHohenort hotel in Cape Town. “I started there as a hot kitchen trainee under chef George Jardine, and moved into the pastry kitchen after a year, which I fell in love with. When the head pastry chef at the time, Clinton Bonhomme, left, I was offered the position… but I felt I wasn’t ready yet, so I left and joined Clinton at Sun International’s The Table Bay hotel,” Jason reminisces.
Cape Town-based Jason Lilley is not your regular baker. With more than 20 years’ experience, he has carved out a unique space within the local pâtisserie industry. This month, he imparts his wisdom by teaching us how to make the perfect croissant with a dark and edgy twist!
THIS RENDITION IS PERFECT FOR HOLLOWEEN, BECAUSE IT'S BLACK AND HAS RASPBERRY 'BLOOD' OOZING OUT OF IT JASON LILLEY
Jason was then headhunted by the Arabella Sheraton Grand Hotel – now known as The Westin Cape Town hotel – to be part of the inaugural team that opened the establishment. Later, after two stints on the Queen Elizabeth 2 (a floating hotel and retired ocean liner that was in service from 1969 to 2008) Jason returned to South Africa and started working at Pezula Hotel in Knysna, where he was the head pastry chef. “Geoffrey Murray was the head chef and he taught me a lot about integrity in cooking – respecting the product and knowing its origins, while being true to it and its flavours,” Jason says.
While there, Jason met Markus Farbinger from île de païn in Knysna. “In my opinion, Markus is the best baker in South Africa. He put artisan breads on the map in this country,” Jason enthuses. “Markus
spiked my interest in bread baking… proper bread baking. I did a twoday course with his mentor, Jeffrey Hamelman, and I was hooked. In October 2006 my sourdough starter, Henry, was born,” Jason continues.
In 2007, together with chef George, Jason opened Jardine Bakery in Cape Town’s CBD, which was renamed Jason Bakery in 2011.
Six years later, Jason opened his second store in Green Point.
At both stores, Jason tries to keep his offerings fresh and interesting, often showcasing the breads and pastries he makes with the help of his sister, Brigitte. In addition to this, Jason has also opened a coffee and croissant hatch called Maison J – a joint venture between five co-owners and Camps Bay Pick n Pay – which was brought on by his passion for croissants. “There are a couple of reasons why I adore croissants: I love the contrast between the crisp, flaky crust and the delicate airy, creamy crumb. They can be eaten as is or toasted, cut in half and filled like a sandwich or piped with a filling in the centre. They can be rolled with bacon, frangipane... in fact, anything you want. Croissants are great,” Jason muses.
As to what inspired the mesmerising black croissants in this article, Jason says: “We had developed a croissant dough a while back using activated charcoal for one of our Saturday Doughssant varieties. It was filled with vanilla cream pie and blackberry jam, and topped with dulce de leche. This rendition is perfect for Halloween, because it’s black and has raspberry ‘blood’ oozing out of it.” Indeed, it is a beguiling sight! 185 BREE STREET, CAPE TOWN; 021-424-5644; JASONBAKERY.CO.ZA