Vadim Prusakov's column.01.07.2012 | Read other columns
This column is a part of NovosibirskGuide.com's Magazine.
Vadim Prusakov is Sib.fm's columnist. And we're proud to present his new column translated specially for NovosibirskGuide.com's Magazine. Thanks to Monoton Translation Agency.
Here I am sitting at the master class, and right in front of me, the real French confectioner bustles about at the stove – it is easy to imagine such a character in a puppet show, or in 3D animation, a prototype for the database of Pixar Animation Studios. He is so lively, that on his own, looks like some cliché, it seems like if you meet him on the street, you’ll think: “Oh, Francais! Boulangerie! Magnifique!” Anyway, the whole story began with the call and the offer to visit the master class… no, let’s begin with another thing.
Let’s begin with the fact, that there are no decent confectionery shops in Novosibirsk. As well as, there are no good coffee shops. There are some good things in different places like lemon pie in cinema Pobeda, or cinnamon bun in coffee shop Chashka kofe, and that’s all. As for me, it is a great mystery, who and what for produces and consumes those confectionary with taste of the soap “Palmolive”?
Mass market lives and prospers thanks to chemical industry and all of its confectionary is made of palm oil, nature-identical cream and so on. Maybe I’m grossly exaggerating, but if you want to go to a good confectioner shop, you’d better visit confectioners and coffee shop Boulangerie in Tomsk. I can assure you, after tasting those delicious things you won’t go to some confectioner shop named Dudnik.
After such miserable summary of Novosibirsk confectioners and coffee shops, let’s move on to the point of my story: once upon a time, Pascal Tepper, the French confectioner, came to our city to save us all. Pascal’s mission was to show through his master class, that beautiful, delicious and natural confectionary could be made right here in Novosibirsk, instead of importing those frozen from America.
Though the master class was arranged by bakery-stuff shop “Vsyo dlya vypechki” (“Everything for baking”) for professionals, anyone could come, and for a modest contribution could take part in it. It was a pity for me, that such master classes take place almost every day in Moscow, but once in a half-year in Novosibirsk.
New knowledge and experience – this is, perhaps, the only thing, which worth spent money, and in this case such an investment was 100% worthwhile. Especially taking into account the fact that at least 1/3 of whole sum was paid back as “author’s cooking set from the French confectioner”, 1/3 – as educational film, detailed recipes, recommendations and technologies, and the last 1/3 – as a pure pleasure.
The funniest in this story was the thing, that about a dozen of those, who “definitely would come” to master class, haven’t showed up, and I wonder where I can eat some of those fresh French loafs and fresh “crossos”, which are made without any advice from foreign confectioners with their master classes.
Meanwhile, Novosibirsk in quality and quantity of confectioner shops and networks, being the third largest city in the country, is left behind, comparing with other two largest cities in variety of goods and its quality. From time to time my mother bakes me La Maison. Though La Maison bakes much worse, than my mother.
For those, who didn’t know about this event, and for those, who have missed it on purpose, I decided to render the most important things: I called a cameraman, and decided to question Pascal about the secrets of French cooking and even asked him to share with us secrets of the most popular French desserts.
- Monsieur Tepper, how did you become the confectioner?
- My great grandfather Fabian Tepper found a small country bakery in 1912. And our family still owns it, it is our family business, which is named in my honor nowadays.
- What do you think of confectioner traditions in Russia, how does it differ from those in France?
- Every country has its own traditions, for example, in Arab countries. In the East, sweets are very sweet, but if it comes to the Slavs – Poland, Russia, - here it is fattier, desserts are made of cream, thick, sweet cream. In France, let us say, everything is lighter, with more fruits and berries.
In Russia, for some reason, it is common to use artificial additives, artificial fats – it is, of course, cheaper and better saved, but there is no future in such confectioner conception. I have a friend, who consults cafe “Pushkin” in Moscow. And even there, he had to convince people in benefits of natural ingredients, even if it’s rather expensive, as a result naturalness – the thing, that people feel and understand, though, sometime, when tasting confectioner goods for the first time they are better taste with artificial ingredients and coloring agents, leave more colorful impression, and better saved, of course, but it’s not my method.
- What do you personally prefer?
- There is no certain thing, which I like, I just like everything delicious, like to eat tasty things. Everything has to be natural, and in this case, generally, the easier the thing is the better. For example, I like “Opera” – very popular layered dessert, and also macaroni, no confectioner shop, perhaps, can go without macaroni, but it tastes a little bit different depending on shop. That’s
why I can’t tell you what I do prefer – everything is worth tasting, everything is delicious.
- Pascal, did you learn how to cook at your parents shop, right in front of the stove, or did you graduate from some institution?
- Of course, I studied - in school in Brussels, worked on training in different companies, and only after that I returned to the parents shop as a serious professional.
- What do you like to cook more than other things, which dessert?
- I like to cook everything, I do not divide recipes into favorite and not – there are more complicated and simpler ones, they take different amount of time. One of my favorite desserts, by the way, which was almost the first dessert in my carrier, is a thin sponge cake with layers of chocolate, lemon, strawberry mousse, and all this was covered with strawberry sauce, light and delicious dessert, not very difficult to cook. But in my concoction it became famous everywhere around Europe – I cooked it for Miss France contest in 1982 and 1984. Cooking delicious things is very easy – you only need to take fresh products and make everything diligently following the recipe, and you don’t need anything else.
- In other words, cooking is not a creative work? It is more handcraft, than art?
- In our case handcraft and creativity go hand in hand. On the one hand, taste is the question of mixing ingredients, technology, cooking, it is pure handcraft. Though a customer makes his choice with his eyes, and you will rather buy a beautiful cake, than unattractive one, isn’t it? That’s why you need to combine taste and beauty, and in such a way, that people couldn’t pass by your shop window without buying your dessert and after buying wouldn’t disappoint in its taste. And also, you need to think of something new not only in design, but to add something new in recipe, that’s why we can say, that in cooking creativity is impossible without high skills of handcraft, and vice-versa, handcraft won’t be sold without creativity.
- Speaking of sales, the whole world is obsessed with globalization nowadays; large enterprises come to replace little bakeries. What do you think about it? Is there a threat to tasty food in globalization?
- Globalization is a normal process. The world is changing, and there are people in this world, who only think of profit, but actually a lot of things become better for commoners – high standards of quality, better ingredients, lower prices, and this means, that goods are more available for consumers. Open market means competition, which leads to improvement of quality. Big volume of output doesn’t mean lack of quality, though I understand, what you are talking about. In France the government supports natural products, local producers, carries out explanation work on topic “chemistry is not the best option for food”.
- In other words future is not so tragic?
- I’m sure, that future belongs to good products, natural confectioner goods. And so will be in your country – some time will pass and people will become pickier, they will prefer natural products to chemical substitute. Of course, a great work should precede such changes, because, it is rather hard to compete with the shops, which offer lower prices. Though I’m sure, that consumer is ready to pay higher price for natural, delicious by nature products. The consumer just needs to be given such a chance, the opportunity to choose.
You can read original article in Russian at sib'fm's website. Photos by Roman Brygin.