INTERVIEW: David Piquard
Creating a successful, distinguished restaurant and its accompanying culinary recipes is no easy feat. Given that most restaurants fail within their first year, finding a niche as either a restaurant owner or chef within such an extremely competitive industry requires much innovation and creative intuition. World renowned chef David Piquard has successfully made such a niche for himself as the head of the highly sought after Gaby et Jules kitchen in Pittsburgh through his unique, and frankly beautiful, pastry creations. Receiving his formal culinary education in France, Piquard’s expertise and masterpieces have transcended cultural tastes, additionally earning Pittsburgh Magazine’s ‘Best Dessert’ and ‘Best in Show’ awards. We had the opportunity to ask Piquard about what makes him unique within an industry filled with talented chefs, as well as learn about some truly tasty treats.
How have you learned to combine the craft of cooking with aesthetics and artistic style over the years in France and now the United States? This would appear difficult.
Piquard: Indeed, it is not an easy task at all! I like to start each day in the lab fresh. I erase what I learned yesterday and push the envelope even further. I like to challenge myself by taking what seems to be impossible in pastry and making it possible. I am always experimenting and innovating.
As the head of the Gaby et Jules kitchen in Pittsburgh, have you had to alter your pastry or recipes to satisfy American tastes, or is that possibly part of what attracts customers?
Piquard: I have remained true to the classic flavors of French macaron, however the possibilities are endless in terms of innovating new flavor combinations. Each month, I invent a new flavor of the month and that’s where I unleash my creativity and try new things. That said, I still cannot wrap my head around the American obsession with peanut butter and jelly.
What have been some of the larger events you have had to cook/cater for? What were those experiences like?
Piquard: We have had the pleasure of participating in large industry events like Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best Restaurant party which is held each year at Heinz Field with over 500 attendees.
Have you won any awards for your pastry creations, either in France or the United States?
Piquard: Since opening Gaby et Jules, we have won Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best Dessert and Best in Show. I was also voted Best Pastry Chef by my own peers which was extremely gratifying. However, the best award a chef can receive is when I see our guest’s faces light up when they enter the shop. They have never see pastry done like this before.
What’s one of the best ways to learn to be a chef?
Piquard: Learning from the masters themselves. As a pastry cook, you’ll be working beside other chefs. Some of them will probably have been an apprentice chef before. Working next to other chefs gives you the opportunity to watch, learn and ask questions. These chefs will be able to give you insider tips on pastry techniques, career advice and valuable skills. They teach you how to create and train your taste as well as become open to new, strange flavors.
Do you yourself enjoy training more inexperienced chefs?
Piquard: Absolutely! Teaching and sharing pastry technique is one of the most gratifying experiences ever. I have had several pastry cooks on staff who have trained under me and then opened their own establishments after leaving Gaby et Jules.
What behind-the-scenes work goes into creating an enticing and wholesome menu?
Piquard: A lot of research! I work with premium and hard-to-find ingredients. This requires a lot of time spent researching to find the best and highest quality.
What have been some of your most well-received recipes since coming to the United States and why do you think they are popular?
Piquard: One of our most popular desserts is called the Feronia, which is green apple mousse surrounded by a caramel creme resting atop milk chocolate chantilly and a pecan crisp. It is named after the Roman goddess of abundance and was originally created for our Fall line-up of desserts; however, it has been so popular that we have kept it in our collection all year round.
by Giorgio Chang
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