August 17, 2020 6 min read
Romain Fournel joined sbe Lifestyle and Hospitality in January 2020 as the Corporate Pastry Chef. Chef Romain oversees the development of the brand EllaMia, a sophisticated and elevated coffee brand concept. Romain has crafted and conceptualized a world-class selection of breakfast pastries, gourmet sandwiches, salads, macarons, specialty chocolate, and craft coffee.
Prior to joining the sbe culinary team, Chef Romain worked as the Executive Pastry Chef at the JW Marriott in Nashville where he oversaw the entire pastry department. Romain was in charge of developing the pastry menus for three on-site restaurants, as well as all banquets that took place inside the 50,000 square foot convention center.
Chef Romain spent almost ten years at Jean Philippe Patisserie in Las Vegas where he served as the Assistant Executive Pastry Chef working directly under world-renowned pastry champion, Jean Philippe Maury and Executive Pastry Chef, Nicolas Chevrieux. In this position, Chef Romain oversaw the production of the kitchen where he and his team delicately crafted a variety of sweets. In addition, Romain was in charge of creating chocolate showpieces, VIP amenities, and over-the-top holiday displays at the Aria and Bellagio hotels.
Before moving to the United States, Chef Romain began working in his first Pastry Chef position at Patisserie Henriet in Bidart, France where he focused on chocolate, confectionery, and pastries. Chef Romain received a Master of Arts in Pastry and two Associate of Art degrees in bakery and pastry from CFA Le Prieure in La Rochelle, France, where he learned and mastered his techniques. During his apprenticeship in 2004, Romain was recognized as one of the best bakery students in France as part of the MAF Boulangerie competition.
Romain discovered his passion for pastries at an early age while baking cakes with his mother and grandmother in his home kitchen. During his later high school years, his love for baking grew, leading him to an internship at a small pastry shop located in his hometown of Tonnay Charente, France.
Today, Chef Romain is excited to bring his innovation and creativity with his strong inspiration from his home country, France. Romain looks forward to artfully crafting the most delectable desserts.
Q1: You began your apprenticeship at a pastry school at age 16 receiving 3 diplomas in Pastry and Bakery. What inspired you to get into the field and did you expect to end up where you are today? Who has been some of the biggest inspirations in general?
A: I started baking at home when I was 9 years old following recipes that my mother and grandmother created. It was them that inspired me to pursue pastry. They were always cooking/baking for the family on weekends. I remember baking at home every Wednesday afternoon, as there was no school, and calling my mom while she was at work asking how to turn on the oven. She would give me instructions over the phone (NOT SAFE AT ALL) but at the end of the day, everybody was happy because I would have cake or brownies on the table.
During my career, I always wanted to travel and work abroad. Working in Las Vegas for a luxury hotel was not planned at all and if you had told me 18 years ago when I started Pastry School that I would end up opening a luxury hotel in Nashville, my answer would have been “Where is Nashville?".
In my career, I have taken inspiration from several people. It started with my parents that were extremely hard workers (they started working around 14-16 years old) and told me if you want something, you have to work hard for it. My first boss, Olivier Derand, and my first Pastry Teacher, Jean Boutet, taught me the foundation of pastry which is the most important part. If you know the basics, you can create anything. Other inspirations to me were Jean Philippe Maury, Nicolas Chevrieux, Nicolas Blouin, Florent Cheveaux, and more. Each person inspired me in different ways, from their creations and flavor profiles to their management styles and interpersonal communications. To be a successful pastry chef, you not only need to master pastry, but you need to be a well-rounded business person
Q2: You’ve created many incredible display pieces; from the 53-pound chocolate guitar for the CMA awards to ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ display using 250 lbs. of chocolate and 100 lbs. of sugar paste. Where do you draw inspiration from when creating these massive, and impressive showpieces? What typically happens to a showpiece after it’s displayed?
A: When I created the chocolate guitar it was for the CMA’s. The inspiration came from George Strait as he’s one of the biggest Country Music stars. We were even able to get one of his guitars as a model.
When we decided to work with the team on the Halloween display, we thought what would be the most emblematic theme for Halloween? Everybody came up with “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. We started to scout the best location in the hotel for this extravagant piece to be displayed. We then took a picture of the location and started to sketch out the look and feel of the display. It’s an amazing feeling when you see the facial expression of guests after you’ve told them it’s made with chocolate.
In Las Vegas and in Nashville, we typically keep the display for the next year. If it is broken, we re-melt the chocolate to re-use it for “Future Display Only”.
Q3: You’re an incredible chocolate, pastry, and bakery chef. Do you prefer utilizing one of these skills over the other? Which was more challenging for you to learn and which skill do you tend to use more at your current position?
A: I've always preferred pastry, especially Petit Gateau for Boutique. You have to play around to make sure your recipes can make 5 to 10 pastries during the tasting process and then you can produce the recipe for a bigger production of 500 pastries.
For me the hardest part was chocolate. Chocolate is very hard to work with because it’s like science with a lot of temperature and portion control. For example, my chocolate showpieces, the chocolate has to be at the right temperature to ensure and the showpieces with the right balance to avoid no breakage.
As a corporate pastry chef now, I have to use a bit of all these skills to develop pastries. I am learning new skills now between working with the designers to build a new kitchen and Pastry Shop, working with Branding/Marketing to develop packaging, and working with purchasing to find new products/ingredients.
Q4: What’s your process for developing new recipes, entremets, or desserts? Do you have a favorite ingredient you like to include in most of your work? What’s a unique pairing you’d recommend others try?
A:I like to use classic flavors, meaning flavors that everybody can recognize when they enjoy the pastry.
I like to use chocolate in pastry, especially dark chocolate as it has a strong flavor profile. I am currently working with “Cacao Barry” and “Or Noir” to develop two chocolates. Milk chocolate called “Ella” and dark chocolate called “Mia”. This will fit perfectly in the brand that I’m developing called “EllaMia”. Based on those, I will develop pastry, chocolate, gelato, and more. One pastry will be based on the Mia Dark Chocolate and I will pair it with a Hazelnut Praline and Vanilla.
If I would have to recommend something, I would say keep it simple and pair flavors that match like Chocolate/Caramel/Hazelnut or Raspberry/Vanilla/Yuzu or maybe Strawberry/Vanilla/Almond.
Q5: You’ve lived in Nashville, Las Vegas, and now you’re in Los Angeles what have been some of your go-to restaurants or establishments? Any hidden gems in each city that people might not know about?
A: I love to try new restaurants! In Las Vegas, my friend would try 1-2 new restaurants a week. I would recommend Carson Kitchen, Lotus Siam, or Partage if you want a taste of a French Restaurant.
In Nashville, Henrietta Red is one of the best restaurants I have been to in a long time. The Beef Carpaccio is the best.
I have only been in Los Angeles for 6 months and with Covid19 it was not easy to try anything but I have eaten at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michelle, which had great pizza. I also tried “Kali” which was a really great experience and the food tasted really good.
If this is your first time joining us for a Q&A as a reader thank you so much for taking the time to read Chef Romain Fournel's story. We hope you've found inspiration both inside or outside of the kitchen.
We love to use our featured chef series to introduce our wonderful audience with some of the amazing and talented chefs who choose Clement Design every day.
We wanted to thank Romain for being a part of our Featured Chef Series Q&A and are happy to follow his continued success. If you are interested in learning more about how you could become a featured chef in the future please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to learn more about what Romain has been working on visit EllaMia today.
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