Chef of the Week: Biju Joshwa, Head Pastry Chef at The Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
It’s been 18 months.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I have always been inspired by pastry, the science and the art behind it. I spent the beginning of my two years working in the main kitchen but was always intrigued and wanted to explore and learn more. I started my career with Taj Hotels in India, working with a few of their greatest chefs. I then moved to London working for The Cinnamon Kitchen and then to Marriott Hotels.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
As a pastry chef, I can be creative, put my ideas on plate through which I can express and define and know that the customers will enjoy and remember.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Fresh lemons – I love citrus flavours as they take the taste levels to a greater height. Dark Chocolate is easy to make guests happy. Fennel pollen has become my salt and pepper as it imparts a cool flavour to the dishes.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Vitamix – great to make sauces, purees and blends.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Grab and go concepts; fermented foods and probiotics; bowl foods; veganism and reducing sugar by using alternatives such as agave syrup, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and stevia.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Some chefs nowadays make recipes complicated, add too many flavours and combinations on the plate, which in turn just becomes too much. I always say less is more.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Like many chefs, I’m inspired by the season I’m in. That’s where to start to get the freshest and best ingredients. It’s hugely important. From there, I’ve always been naturally drawn to colours and textures so anything from spending time with nature to visiting an art museum will open me up to new ideas.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I love to make bonbons, working with chocolate. I made strawberry and cardamom bonbons with 40% milk chocolate Alunga. Another current favourite is my rhubarb panacotta served with yogurt sponge, pink pepper meringue. It’s really light, refreshing and a well balanced dish.
How do you come up with new dishes?
Nature and the environment in which we rely on. When we get comfortable or used to an ingredient, I have to alter my approach and thinking towards a dish.
Who was your greatest influence?
Antonio Bachour. His style of presentation was all about colour, freshness and keeping it simple.
Tell us three chefs you admire
Simon Jenkins is now a pastry consultant with a Michelin star background. He’s a great teacher and an amazing person.
Daniel Koshy was my first pastry teacher without whom I wouldn’t have learned and understood the science behind working with chocolate and pastry. He is currently working as an Executive Chef at the JW Marriott in India.
Gareth Bowen, Chef Consultant for Carnival Cruises and also previously Executive Chef at Shangri-La and Marriott’s London – he has been a great driving force and inspiration for me.
What is your favourite cookbook?
I refer a lot of books for my menus, draw inspiration and ideas from them. Some of the books that I really like are The New Patissiers by Olivier Dupon, Evolution by Jordi Puigvert, Chocolate Ch by Roman Morato.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Pastry chef Damien Wager – I love his work, flavour profiles and fact he uses the best of seasonal produce.
Ruth Hansom – She has won young National chef of the year and also Young MasterChef of the year.
Luke French – Head Chef at Joro in Sheffield – I like his approach to locality, care of ingredients and simplicity of cooking.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I have been to Xu on Rupert Street, London, which opened up last year. It’s a Taiwanese restaurant and the food is sensational there especially the Hainanese chicken rice. Also their bubble teas and dumplings are equally great.