August 31, 2022 6 min read
Jean-Sébastien is originally from Lyon and spent his childhood in Montpellier in the south of France. He has been passionate about pastry and mathematics since he was a child. Jean-Sébastien first devoted himself to mathematics and graduated with a master's degree in agronomy and biostatistics. For 5 years, he was a mathematics teacher and consultant for large companies in process optimization.
In 2010, he successfully changed his profession by devoting himself to his other passion: pastry. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2010, he perfected his skills at Fauchon in Paris and at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco.
In 2013, his career path took him to Tokyo, where Jean-Sébastien worked at the 2-star Michel restaurant Pierre Gagnaire at the ANA Intercontinental Hotel. From there he went on to share his passion and his creativity at the Hilton Tokyo, as pastry operations supervisor, and at the Tokyo Suijyo Club as pastry chef. In 2019, chef Jean-Sébastien became executive pastry chef at TRUNK(HOTEL) and developed the concept of monochromatic menus for weddings. As of today he collaborates with luxury brands by creating custom pastries and most recently joined an IT company like pastry chef in Tokyo in January 2022.
Q1: At age 23 you were working for companies in the banking sector. After about 6 years you were fed up with that type of work and transitioned to pastry. Was there a specific moment when you decided that the transition to pastry was what you were destined to do? Was there any additional influence that pushed you towards that career path or did you decide to go with pastry because you had always enjoyed it?
A: I have always been passionate about pastry since I was little, and I am a foodie. In 2009, I lost my job due to the financial crisis. I told myself that it was a sign of fate, and it was the trigger to change my life. I am also lucky that my wife is a pastry chef so that helped me in my choice indirectly.
Q2: In 2011, following graduation from Le Cordon Bleu, you found yourself as part of the team at Alain Ducasse Le Louis XV in Monaco which currently holds three Michelin Stars. What was that experience like for you being relatively new in the industry? Where do you think you grew the most during those two years?
A: I had the chance to work in one of the most prestigious hotels in the world and I am aware of it. When I arrived in the brigade, I was taken under the wing of the assistant pastry chef who had also had a professional retraining, so he understood my choice.
At first, the first 3 months were hard because I had to store a lot of information in a short time and also work quickly and well (between banquets, room service, restaurant service). The first 4 months, I came an hour early to compensate for my lack of speed and technique. After 6 months of work, I was in the same rhythm as the other pastry chefs in the brigade.
Once you progress in all areas, you gain the respect of other pastry chefs. During the 3 years that I worked at the hotel, in contact with professionals, I was able to perfect myself in all the models (chocolate, sugar, dessert). The area where I have progressed the most is undoubtedly creativity (creativity in the association of tastes and in the design of the desserts). After 2 years in the hotel, I started creating desserts for afternoon tea and for restaurants. Not too bad in such a short time!
Q3: You worked at Pierre Gagnaire’s for 2 years and eventually ‘went up the scale’ and became executive pastry chef at the Trunk Hotel. What was the transition like for you?
A: I went from clerk to executive pastry chef in less than 4 years so it's been a meteoric rise. After 2 years at Pierre Gagnaire, I became executive pastry chef at the Hilton Tokyo.
I managed 32 pastry chefs and bakers on a daily basis. My experience in my former professional life helped me enormously in the daily management. I felt like I managed a team, but I didn't do a lot of baking. I stayed for a year and then took my first job as a pastry chef in one of the biggest cafes in Tokyo. I was doing management and pastry at the same time; it was an enriching experience for me.
Then joining TRUNK(HOTEL) was a springboard in my career. My management and pastry style fit perfectly with TRUNK(HOTEL). I was able to fully express my sense of unlimited creativity and manage without constraints. It's like a love story!
I created monochromatic menus And, after a few months at TRUNK(HOTEL), my baking style was recognized in the professional world in Tokyo and around the world. I started to be approached by brands of pastries, chocolate, silicone, magazines to collaborate together. I followed a lightning ascent that I would never have imagined a few years ago, it's like a dream.
Q4: It is pretty common in Japan for all events (weddings, seminars, etc.) to take place in hotels, what are some of your most memorable events while working at Trunk Hotel where you developed your monochromatic menu style. How did you manage producing enough pastry for 20 events a weekend (pre-covid)? Did you ever feel like you were running out of ideas for different items you’d create for these events?
A: One of my most memorable moments is without doubt the launch of the “Black” menu. The dessert was a chocolate ball enclosing the dessert. We poured a chocolate sauce and the ball had to melt. The difficulty was that all the chocolate balls were handmade and had to be quite thin. All servers had to be synchronized as well. Every weekend, more than 400 “Black” desserts were served. More than 400 “Black” desserts: that means more than 800 half-spheres of chocolate to prepare! It's a big logistical challenge, all the "Black" desserts have to be prepared on the spot. When launching the “Black” menu, I was a little stressed but now it’s like a routine.
The other highlights are the collaborations with luxury cosmetics, fashion, and luxury car brands. It was very interesting to create desserts to express the brand through pastry. Every week, I had to create special menus by combining my style of pastry and the needs of the brands. It's been a very busy week. The secret to being able to produce all this is to have a good team and to be a good manager. I make desserts that are simple to make to dress but with a lot of visual and taste impact. To save time, it is necessary to simplify the recipes, to work closely with the suppliers (of chocolate, molds, fruit puree, fresh fruit).
Q5: What’s your process for developing pastry for an event? Do you have a favorite pastry you’ve created for an event? You are big in creating French Pastry for these events, did/do you ever feel the need to incorporate Japanese ingredients or styles into your pastry?
A: The first question: for how many people, what is the color of the brand, what is the concept. Depending on all these parameters, I create the appropriate plated dessert or dessert buffet.
One of my most beautiful creations is an all-red monochrome dessert buffet for a famous Italian car brand for the launch of a new model. In general, I use local products as much as possible in my desserts. It keeps me open-minded. I always try to use the ingredients but which may surprise the Japanese: combinations like wasabi and dark chocolate, shiso and rhubarb, tofu and white chocolate. There are endless combinations that I haven't finished exploring yet!
To show support for our featured chef and to see more incredible cakes, desserts, and other work from chef Jean-Sébastien Clapié you can follow him on Instagram at @jean_sebastien_clapie.
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