World-famous French pastry chef Pierre Hermé shared a selection of his best pastries with more than 300 guests last night at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Speaking through an interpreter, Hermé described his creative baking process from inception to completion to an audience of students and Cantabrigians.
“If you want to be creative, you have to know the classics as a basis,” Hermé said.
He added that it took him years to move beyond baking staples and begin imagining his own creations.
Midway through Hermé’s presentation, each of the attendees received a tray bearing pastries created by Hermé and his staff. Attendees were directed to eat each treat in turn as Hermé described them.
Some desserts were unique variations on classics, such as rose, lychee, and raspberry macaroons. Another selection—a creamy concoction that tasted of wasabi with a bitter aftertaste—drew mixed reviews.
“It was an interesting mixture of different flavors such as sweetness, bitterness, and wasabi. It starts to dance in your mouth,” School of Design student Jielu Lu said.
Others were less impressed by the unconventional mix of flavors.
“It wasn’t my favorite—I associate wasabi with sushi, so it made me think of fish,” School of Design student Julia Xiao said. “It’s just a matter of personal taste.”
Hermé’s style is to use unique flavors in many of his creations to unsettle customers.
Hermé said he uses “a lot of things from the savory world not so much for taste, but for surprise.”
Many attendees were School of Design students looking for insight into Hermé’s creative process.
“I came because I liked the idea of looking at architecture in terms of dessert,” Lu said.
Speaking of his own minimalist aesthetic style, Hermé defended his decision not to decorate his creations, but instead focus on structure and taste.
“This comes back to the question of style, going back to the essentials.” Hermé said. “To not decorate the cakes, they have to be appetizing just by the elements that compose the cake.”
But Hermé suggested that the connections between pastry and architectural design do have their limits.
When a student asked how to emulate some of the pastry design concepts using the medium of architecture, Hermé said the process is “not at all something analogous.”
Still, attendees said they were satisfied with Hermé’s presentation.
“To watch the famed Hermé speak about his process of creation and, obviously, to taste his creations proved to be a delectable evening,” Xiao said.