Meet a Sweets Lover


Com­ing from a coun­try known for its heav­enly la­goons and palm beaches, the Mau­ri­tian Bernard Charles has been pro­duc­tion man­ager at the renowned con­fec­tionery café Ba­teel for the last 11 years. We talked to him about his pas­sion, his ca­reer, and how he in­te­grates dairy prod­ucts into his kitchen

Where does your pas­sion for pas­try come from?

It was born with me, back home in Mau­ri­tius, where I grew up learn­ing the ba­sics of cook­ing with my mother, pre­par­ing all dif­fer­ent kinds of dishes with her. How­ever, the ear­li­est and most in­struc­tive in­spi­ra­tion came from one of my un­cles, who was a chef. He trav­eled the world as a part of his job, and I was fas­ci­nated by that.

This early fas­ci­na­tion gave birth to a more pur­pose­ful pur­suit of this pro­fes­sion, and I ended up join­ing a pri­vate hos­pi­tal­ity school for six months to learn the ba­sics. When I started work­ing, I was an as­sis­tant cook at a ho­tel. But as luck would have it, they de­cided they no longer needed an as­sis­tant cook in the kitchen and I was sent to the pas­try in­stead.

Two decades later, I am still in the pas­try, with­out an ounce of re­gret.

It was in the pas­try that my pas­sion was nur­tured, day by day. I worked at three dif­fer­ent five-star re­sorts in Mau- ri­tius, and from there I was sent on reg­u­lar train­ing and in­tern­ship trips to France, where I fi­nally dis­cov­ered a dif­fer­ent facet of pas­try. I worked in Dubai then Bar­ba­dos for five years, be­fore head­ing back to Dubai to start the lux­ury café with Ba­teel. We launched the first café in 2007, and to­day we have more than 30 cafés in the GCC.

Where does your in­spi­ra­tion come from?

I am for­tu­nate to at­tend ex­hi­bi­tions and train­ing pro­grams in Europe on an annu al basi s, and it i s there that I am eas­ily c apable of di scov­er­ing new trends and gaug­ing cus­tomer pref­er­ences. To me, the cus­tomer is the cor­ner­stone of the in­dus­try, and it is my duty as a chef to de­velop a kind of sen­si­tiv­ity to what cus­tomers need, be­fore in­te­grat­ing my ex­per­tise and fi­nesse into the process to trans­form a dream into a re­al­ity in the most gra­cious and de­sir­able form.

What role do in­gre­di­ents play in your kitchen?

I strongly be­lieve that high-qual­ity in­gre­di­ents come first and fore­most, and in my eyes this is what makes the dif­fer­ence be­tween good, medi­ocre, and bad re­sults. I have learned from all the chefs Mini tropèzi­enne I worked tarts with that eyes come first and taste comes sec­ond. En­joy­ing a cake or dessert at the end of the meal is the part that will al­ways give that ev­er­last­ing im­pres­sion. Still how­ever, qual­ity is what will make your guests come back for more.

How im­por­tant are dairy prod­ucts in your kitchen?

Dairy prod­ucts are ex­tremely im­por­tant for me, since I have been trained to al­ways work with real cream, real but­ter, and real milk. I def­i­nitely be­lieve that first-class dairy prod­ucts are what will give you a good end prod­uct. I am a strong ad­vo­cate of ev­ery­thing made with dairy; cake, bis­cuits, vi­en­nois­eries, and fine pas­tries.

Can you tell us more about but­ter and cream?

Our prod­ucts are made with 100% but­ter, and we never com­pro­mise on that. The qual­ity of the but­ter is what makes a good crois­sant or Dan­ish at any of our cafés. But­ter is what de­fines the taste, flak­i­ness, and crispi­ness of a real crois­sant.

As for the the cream, I use 35.1% fat cream in all my cakes and pas­tries. Ex­pe­ri­ence has taught me that this is what en­riches the taste, tex­ture, and qual­ity of my pas­tries.

How many vi­en­nois­eries and pas­tries do you pro­duce per week? Which are most pop­u­lar?

About 3,500 in low sea­son, and 4,500-5,000 in high sea­son for vi­en­nois­eries, es­pe­cially plain crois­sants, cheese crois­sants, and pains au cho­co­lat. As for the pas­tries, it’s be­tween 700 and 1,000 per day. Our best-sell­ing pas­tries are pe­can pie, choco­late fon­dant, mille­feuille, cheese­cake, and pud­ding.

What ad­vice would you give to as

pir­ing chefs?

Learn the ba­sics and don’t burn the steps. Get your ed­u­ca­tion at a good culi­nary school, and ap­proach the job pas­sion­ately. Bear in mind that knowl­edge will come while work­ing along­side other chefs and men­tors. Be cu­ri­ous and never stop learn­ing. Work­ing as a chef is not as easy as it ap­pears in TV shows; you will go through chal­leng­ing - and some­times un­pre­dictable – sit­u­a­tions, test­ing the lim­its of your skill and abil­i­ties. Don’t give up, and fol­low your dream with pas­sion, be­cause, in the end, it is worth it.

Ba­teel date pud­ding

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