On a dreary Monday night, a group of strangers gathered together to share an evening of delicious food and wine in an educational, but casual setting.
Stan and Kathy, supporters of The Arts Club, opened their doors to host the small group of individuals who were eager to learn from the talented Bruno Feldeisen. Wine glasses were waiting upon arrival, with our names written on them with a washable Sharpie. This was a great way of personalizing the experience while eliminating “lost” glasses.
This was a unique class in the Celebrity Chef Cooking Class series because the focus was on dessert, rather than just finishing with dessert.
There were, however, some savory treats to balance out the consumption of sugar and cream over the course of the night. This included a baby golden and red beet salad with yuzu olive vinaigrette and toasted pumpkin seeds, a cheese and charcuterie platter, smoked salmon, and a pasta salad with roasted vegetables and herbs.
Bruno Feldeirsen, Pastry Chef at Yew Restaurant, proved to be entertaining and knowledgeable as he led the class through the series of sweets. His strong French accent and confident attitude, made the experience that much more unique, as if we were in his family home in the small town of Clermont-Ferrand.
Although he encouraged guests to participate, the young class was collectively quite timid, needing encouragement to get their hands in the action.
Our first dish was an eye-opener as Bruno turned mango syrup in to a spherical delight, in a simple “salt bath”.
Mango ravioli shooter with Malibu champagne
This dessert was an explosion in your mouth from the effervescent sparkling Malibu and the mango ravioli bursting in our mouth. It was an usual feeling, and a pleasant one. This is dessert in liquid form, and something that I could see myself having ten of because it’s light, refreshing and not too sweet.
“Not Your Mama’s Shortcake”
Black sesame sponge, vanilla crémeux, strawberries
This was probably my favorite of all the desserts. It was sweet and creamy with the sponge cake and raspberry meringue to add texture. I admit, I had two.
“In the restaurant we use BC organic strawberries, buying bulk in the summer and freezing it. I found some strawberries for tonight, not BC, not organic, just in case we need to put some on the dishes. You see, I’m honest.”
The sponge cake for this dessert consisted of eggs, black sesame seed, flour and sugar, that were put “under pressure” (using CO2 or N2O in a whippit) before being put in the microwave to set. Microwave time was less than a minute.
We also learned that you can create this dish with many other flavor combinations such as pistachio lemon, but they use black sesame because they have a huge Asian customer base at the restaurant.
The meringues were added for crunchiness and are pink because they use a dehydrated raspberry powder, added to the egg white after it is whipped.
Roasted white chocolate cream with blood orange compote
After explaining to the guests that white chocolate is not really chocolate and rather almost completely milk and sugar, he told us that chefs often roast it in order to give it a better flavor. (In short, what you do is bake it in the oven, checking the chocolate every ten minutes and giving it a good stir to promote the caramelization.)
He took the roasted white chocolate, whipped it with cream, piped it in to a shot glass and added a tart drop of the blood orange compote to make a smooth dessert with contrasting flavors.
Coconut lime tapioca with passion fruit cream
This was a favorite for many because of the unique combination of flavors and textures. I’ve never had anything like this dish before and I was impressed with his creativity and orginality especially because he used kale micro-greens to add a freshness and color to this tropical dish.
Tapioca is gluten-free, almost completely protein-free, and contains practically no vitamins. In Vietnam, it is called bột năng. In Indonesia, it is called singkong. In the Philippines, it is called sago. In Malaysia it is called “Ubi Kayu”.
Popcorn crème brûlée with caramelized banana
While the crème brûlée didn’t taste as much like popcorn as I anticipated it would, taking on a banana flavour instead, I was fascinated by the process.
“For this I infuse freshly made popcorn with cream, let it set overnight, the next day I press all of the popcorn out so the cream tastes just like popcorn. Mix it with egg yolk and sugar then cook it, then top it with a caramelized bananas but you can use more popcorn for it if you prefer.”
Dark chocolate cream with caramel popcorn
This chocolate mousse was thick, rich and delicious. Bruno explained to us that one must use high grade chocolate with at least 68% cocoa and, most importantly, it must contain cocoa butter. The caramel popcorn was made fresh by Bruno and complemented the dessert by adding a little bit of crunch and a touch of extra sweetness.
During the course of the night in addition to great dessert I got a chance to learn a little more about Bruno.
How did you pick your dishes for this event?
I pick dishes based on seasons, intriguing technics, a variety of flavors and colors, different ethnicities, as well as styles and ideas that people are familiar with, without being boring.
I’m a big fan of North American flavors even if my technique is French. For example on my new menu I have a carrot cake ice cream sundae where I take cream cheese icing, fold some carrot cake inside and finish it with a pineapple compote.
What was the inspiration behind the popcorn dishes?
I think people enjoy things that they can relate to, as a child they grow up with certain flavors, as they reach adulthood they love to be reminded of those flavors. It’s very true in North America, I’ve been in Canada for six years but I love in the States for 18 years before that. I try to, wherever I go, use what is locally available and come up with new ideas. I don’t want to come from France and try to do French desserts because I’ve done that there. You have to keep your mind open, that’s why I left my home country – to discover the world, not to preach what I do in France.
Is it a long process to be confident in the staff that are preparing your creations and delegate duties to them?
You need to be fair but firm when managing others. People will sense weakness and you need to go in organized and exude an attitude that you know everything. If they feel that you aren’t in control then they may not trust you and will do their own things. On the other hand, sometimes you just have to accept it the way it is and make it work with those who resist.
On a big job it takes six months to understand the operation then another six months to nurture the people, for them to trust you and you to trust them. Then they can start to flourish in the job and feel comfortable.
What’s your favorite thing about the Celebrity Chef Cooking Series?
It is always good to get out of the kitchen and meet new people from different horizons, world and background. Even better if we can share some dessert and a glass of wine!
Could you elaborate a bit on why you don’t use fancy silverware and prefer wood to serve your meals on?
Wood is natural, simple and it bridges the desserts I do with our beautiful surrounding here in BC. Whenever possible I try to use salvaged wood.
Silver, on the other hand, requires a lot of chemical to clean and polish it, while also harming the environment.
If you weren’t a pastry chef what would you be doing?
My dream was to be an airline pilot and travel the world. I did end up traveling the world, not in a cockpit but in row 28 instead.
Advice for aspiring pastry chefs?
Get a cooking education to learn the basic skills, pack your bag and knives and go discover the world!
What inspired you to become a pastry chef?
It is a bit complex, but to summarize it, I had a very rough and difficult life when I was young. I lost my Mom when I was 14 and lived on the streets for a while. At one point I had to steal to feed myself. Entering the world of kitchen was like finding an education and a family, having Chefs as father figures and fellow cooks as brothers. Plus, I had a good meal everyday.
Did you (or do you) have a mentor?
I have two mentors: Chef Alain Ducasse when I worked in France and Chef Joachim Splichal from Patina fame in Los Angeles when I was there.
What do you do when you’re not baking? Since you spend your days sampling your pastries, do you run, bike or hike to maintain a balanced lifestyle? Or do you just eat healthy otherwise and enjoy other hobbies, like going to arts events?
I am a single Dad of a six year old beautiful, little boy, so he takes most of my time off. I maintain a healthy lifestyle: I am mostly vegetarian, I run, bike and do yoga. I am also a big fan of photography, black & white film photography in particular. I have a couple of old cameras and take photos when I get the inspiration.
What is your favorite dessert and wine pairing?
I stay away from sweet wine, I just don’t understand of the idea of mixing sweet alcohol and desserts. However, I love red wine and desserts. It is more daring to enjoy but the combination of tannins and sweet flavors are always intriguing to me. I love Pinot Noirs from Oregon, California and Washington State and some of the Malbec from Chile and Argentina are fun to drink. Cabernets have to be from Napa. Of course being in BC now, I do enjoy the wine bounty of BC.
This event’s wine was provided by Mission Hill Family Estate, with their Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc flowing throughout the evening. Stan, owner of the house we were dining in, was adamant that there was to be no Chardonnay, and the organizers complied.
Coffee was handed out with a smile from Scott Sorrell, Boutique Manager at Nespresso. I enjoyed an americano, with it’s beautiful bitter flavour contrasting nicely with the sweet desserts.
For more high resolution photos check out my Celebrity Chef set on Flickr.