Q&A with The Cake Botanist

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Naomi Lee

graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Paris and also trained at the Valrhona Chocolate School in Tokyo and UFM International Baking School, Bangkok. She worked as a pastry chef at Pierre Hermé Paris and a senior cake decorator and tutor at Peggy Porschen Cakes London. She set up The Cake Botanist and now teaches sugarcraft and cake decorating in the UK and around the world. 

Sweet Tooth Tours (STT) sat down with The Cake Botanist (TCB) for a Q&A:

STT: What inspired you to become a chef? Why did you chose pastry over cuisine? 

TCB: My mum and grandma in Yorkshire. Seeing my mum cook so well and make people happy with her cooking creations whether at dinner or a party she catered for made me want to do the same and bring people I loved together with my food. Not only that, having my grandma teach me the basics when I used to visit her as a little girl and see her put so much passion into something she loved gave me the push to decide that I should do something I enjoyed over what was the norm. 

I started over in a cuisine kitchen when I did my first kitchen stint, but after 2 weeks I hated going home smelling like raw meat and de-boning fish and I noticed in the kitchen the pastry section was air conditioned and all the chefs were quietly working away producing intricate delicious smelling desserts and I decided that I could always do cuisine at home and pastry as a full time job and i haven't looked back since!

STT: What did you learn at Le Cordon Bleu that you think every home chef should know?

TCB: Clean as you go and to work smart. Being a chef, it is our labour cost that adds up to the price of a dessert, wedding cake, savoury main course, so if you can work smart by working as efficiently as possible, trying to multi-task where ever you can, like whipping up your cream for a mousse in a standing mixer while melting the chocolate to fold in. At the end of the day you don't want to have spent the whole day of a cake that you could have spent a few hours completing!

STT: Who is your greatest cooking influence? 

TCB: Gordon Ramsay, fellow left handed chef :)

STT: How would you describe your style?

TCB: My style is very much modern and cake designs with a delicate floral twist. 

STT: What is your favourite class to teach?

TCB: My favourite class to teach is my Buttercream Finishes class, as it consists of many techniques to learn in a short amount of time and students go away with the skills to layer a cake, mask it with the help of the revolutionary "Ganaching Plates" and how to work with different types of buttercream to create trending textures on cakes. Not only that, they also get to use "Safety Seal", an edible food safe barrier to stick fresh flowers into cakes, perfect for any occasion! 

STT: What kitchen tool can you not live without?

TCB: my little silicon spatula! I can use it to whisk, spread buttercream on a cake and scrape my bowls clean of batter, small but effective! 

STT: What is your favourite dessert to make? Do you also enjoy eating it?

TCB: my favourite dessert would have to be a hazelnut dacquoise with chocolate mousse! Yes I love eating it, chocolate and nuts are a great combination!

STT: What is your favourite sweet spot in London? 

TCB: that would have to be Yauatcha on Berwick street in SOHO, their "Jasmine honey" petit gateau is amazing, delicate flavours put together so well!

Lynne Staartjes