Growing up in Brittany, France Etienne discovered a love for food and a passion for the pastry arts from a very young age. He loved working with his hands and creating edible delicacies. Inspiration for food grew with his parents providing delicious organic fruits and vegetables throughout his early childhood. When he was younger, Etienne used to watch Joël Robuchon’s TV show “Bon Appétit Bien Sûr” which only grew his passion even more. All of these experiences culminated together and drove Etienne to pursue his career in the world of food.
When he was just seven years old Etienne told his parents he wanted to be a chef and began the path towards this career when he was just 15 years old. He began his career working in the 1 Michelin star restaurant ‘La Ville Blanche’ with chef Jean-Yves Jaguin. During this time, he was also busy attending culinary school in Lannion, Brittany where he learned savory food for four years. Afterwards, Etienne went on to specialize in pastry for another year and a half at the CFA in Ploufragan while working at ‘l’Auberge des Glazicks’ in Plomodiern, France a 2 Michelin star restaurant. Here he worked under the talented Olivier Bellin and was constantly developing his knowledge and skills while he continued to pursue his passion.
From there as Etienne’s skills grew, he began to participate in competitions. The same year he was working at l’Auberge des Glazicks he participated in the ‘Championnat de France du Dessert’ making it to the semi-final round. This is a competition created by Cultures Sucre in 1974 in collaboration with the National Education and the professionals of the hotel and restaurant industry. It aims to encourage the practice of dessert catering by distinguishing the best pastry chefs around. Etienne also entered in the Junior level ‘Le Trophee des Glaces’ where he placed first.
Eventually, Etienne decided to leave Brittany, as well as his family, and head to Paris in hopes of further advancing career path. While in Paris he began to work for Alain Passard at ‘Arpège’ a 3 Michelin star restaurant. After a few years Etienne decided to expand his skill set even more and began working at the famous Parisian Palace ‘Le Meurice’ where he had a chance to learn from and work with the very talented Alain Ducasse, and master pastry chef Cédric Grolet.
One day, while working in Paris, David Bouley called Etienne and proposed he come to work for him at his restaurant in NYC as his Executive Pastry Chef. Etienne decided a change of scenery wouldn’t hurt as he took the job and moved to NYC in summer of 2015. Since then, he has been working hard as his career has continued to progress. For the first two years Etienne was creating and managing two restaurants and two other areas for banquets and events.
As of late, Etienne has been working at Bouley at Home restaurant which he helped launch alongside David Bouley: they received a 1 Michelin star after being open for just one year. Today, Etienne Le Bastard continues to work on his creation and development of pastries focusing on healthy desserts with low added sugar, low glycemic index, and also gluten free when possible.
It's clear that Etienne is outstanding in his field. From such a young age he has succeeded and continues to thrive as a now – Executive Pastry Chef. We were lucky enough to actually meet Etienne at an event after the Summer Fancy Food show in New York last June. Although he’s been reposted by @clementdesignusa in the past, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to feature such a talented and down-to-earth chef. Read below and get to know Executive Pastry Chef Etienne Le Bastard.
Q1: When you moved to NYC from France to chase your dreams, what level of success seemed realistic to you and what are your hopes for the future? What would you describe as your ‘minimum accomplishment’ something that made you say, “wow I made it”?
A: In the future my goal is to open my own company, I’d love to do something like a pastry shop in NYC, utilizing new concepts and focusing on good pastry; and maybe work on opening my consulting company afterwards.
If my first shop was successful, I’d hope to open more than one pastry shop, and just continue to make good and healthy pastry. Maybe one day I might be able to do some more competitions such as MOF and others that pique my interest.
Q2: When we met, we talked briefly about how the food industry in France is so different compared to the United States, could you compare and contrast the two as far as high-end restaurants go, what’s expected, and how have you thrived through the industry in both countries?
A: There is some differences between these two countries that I love. Currently you can see that the American food scene is getting better and better, also in pastry, but I feel that in France they are certainly a step ahead of us.
America pastry and food are growing better though, and we are getting there. France is obviously well known for pastry and most of the best pastry chefs work in France or are French pastry chefs because France has such a solid background within pastry.
The level in pastry in NYC has been getting better even since I’ve been in the USA (4 years). I feel that in France, customers are maybe more open mind than in the US, but I’ve also noticed that Americans have been changing their minds and opening up to new ideas and flavors, which is good for the industry.
All of the pastry chefs in US seem to be pushing those boundaries more and opening the public up to new and creative ideas which is definitely a good thing. I definitely think that in a few years we are going to have a much better pastry scene across the United States of America!
Q3: You said you’ve been researching and developing healthy desserts lately (gluten free, low sugar and low glycemic index). What’s your process for creating something new like this and where do you find inspiration? During the 2019 Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie they had a vegan plate assignment, have you developed anything along those lines yet? Do you often find yourself in challenging situations or do you enjoy the creativity that comes along with developing these new recipes?
A: I find my inspiration in many different things: art, farmers markets, simply tasting and trying new products, talking with other pastry chefs, executive chefs, sommeliers and other people who may deal with flavor and taste.
A few years ago (3 years) at Bouley at Home restaurant downtown in the Tribeca area I created a vegan and gluten free dessert because it was important for me to make a real dessert truly for vegans. Something that would be fun for them to enjoy that wasn't just a standard fruit plate. It was certainly nice for me to challenge myself to think differently, even if it was a bit harder to produce.
We can always use products other than milk, cream and eggs in pastry. We just need to open our mind and try new ingredients. Customers always give me that challenge and that's why I love my job so much. It always pushes me to think about something new and to try to make our customers happy. However, I also enjoy creating new desserts that don't require me to think about gluten free or vegan, but I still like to explore and create something new; like new flavors and pairings. The end goal is of course to see if our customers like it, the best answer from them is when they say, "whoa! I've never tasted something like this before, it's amazing!"
Q4: You live in one of the world’s major commercial, financial, and cultural centers. With iconic sites including massive skyscrapers like the World Trade Center and sprawling Central Park to off-the-beaten-path local gems like EMPAC at Rensselaer. How was adjusting to the ‘city life’ for you? Can you suggest any must-dos for anyone who is experiencing New York for the first time? Could you share any of your fondest memories you’ve had since arriving?
A: I was living in Paris before, so it was a pretty easy transition for me, the only thing was the different language, but I learned English pretty fast, I think.
I love NYC and this is one of best cities in the world for me. There is so many things to do in NYC, especially for your first time visiting. Each neighborhood has something new to do. You’d definitely want to see The Statue of Liberty downtown, stop by High Line in west village, visit Central Park, tour the Museum of History, stop by the Flatiron District, go to the Gospel in Harlem, Brooklyn bridge, SOHO, Tribeca, Dumbo in Brooklyn, World Trade Center, Ground Zero, Wall Street and so many other areas.
You’d need a while so you could stop by and visit all you need to see in NYC! My best memories since I’ve arrived are: meeting new peoples, making new friends, visiting and trying new restaurants, the opportunity to travel around the USA, and of course the city in general. There is so many things to do here!
Q5: We took to Instagram and Facebook to ask our followers submit a few questions for you in this new mini-q called: Social Asks:
@eurogourmetstl asked "How has pastry evolved since you began working in the industry?"
- Pastry is getting more creative every year, and we see more and more talent in pastry and many chefs are sharing their knowledge with each other. We see pastry in TV shows, all over instagram, and in all of social media. Pastry is in the front scene, and everyone is now enjoying our products and pictures via social media.
@technobake asked "What's your favorite part about being an executive pastry chef?"
- My favorite thing about being an executive pastry chef is managing people, creating new dishes and having the opportunity to show what I know. I also have the opportunity to host pastry and chocolate classes in the restaurant, which I enjoy immensely. I love that I get to make our customers happy at the end of the meal.
Cataleya Hawes from Facebook asks "How often do you find yourself with free time to enjoy the city?"
- I always find some time during the week for myself, first during my week end, at the morning and after service during the week. Working in pastry and restaurant take time but I always find time for myself to change and clear my mind and think about stuff that doesn’t involve work. That’s very important for me to keep my soul, and helps keep me on the track to be able to create new stuff.
If you're interested in learning more about Etienne you can follow along on instagram @etiennelebastard and get a glimpse of his life at Bouley Restaurant
We wanted to thank Etienne for taking the time to speak with us and answer ours and the communities questions. We don't often get to meet with our featured chefs beforehand and it was a pleasure to hang out with Etienne in NYC last June.
Thank you to our community for taking the time to pose a few questions in our new series: Social Asks. If you're interested in submitting future questions be sure to follow us @clementdesignusa and on Facebook. If you want to suggest a chef or if you're a chef yourself that would be interested in a Q&A please reach out to us online!
We hope you enjoyed this month's Q&A with chef Etienne and we able gain some insight into his grind through the culinary ranks. Comment below if you have any additional questions or remarks and be sure to tune in next month where we will be featuring a private chef who has found success navigating a non-linear career path to become a solo-preneur.