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
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