Posted 20th Nov 2015
As Christmas fast approaches we spoke to Executive Pastry Chef, Nicholas Hollands, at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington to find out more about his challenging career choice and how we can perfect our baking at home ready for the festive season
How did you become a pastry chef?
I started off in the main kitchen but didn’t find passion there and decided I would give pastry a try… that was 42 years ago!
What do you find most challenging to make and why?
Savoury twice cooked soufflés always seem to be a bit of a problem. With pastry, consistency is the key, and it simply is too tricky with a soufflé.
What tip could you give to our readers to help them make a light and delicious cake every time?
Always fold in the flour gently. Never beat it in as this will chase all the air out of your mix.
Do you have a ‘showstopper’ cake you like to make to impress?
I like to impress with cakes and everyone loves a showstopper, but other items like petits fours, breads and tarts can be just as impressive.
What does your role at the Royal Garden Hotel involve?
I need to work very closely with many departments, not just the kitchen. From creating special giveaways for the sales team to creating themed afternoon teas for marketing, it’s never a dull moment.
Describe a typical day in the pastry kitchen?
It always starts with a cup of tea. I then need to prioritise and organise my day; this is crucial as once we start, there is no stopping until all the relevant jobs are finished.
What do you enjoy making most?
Puff pastry. As it is challenging and seeing it rise is always very pleasing.
How do you change and develop the afternoon tea menu? Who comes up with the ideas?
I always ask the team if they have any ideas and we take it from there. It is a real team collaboration. Sometimes, I have to reign it in as some team members have very grand and complex concepts. But once the item is designed, we produce it and taste it to make sure it’s perfect.