We have not been able to regularly update this site.
I have been caught up in my bakebook project while juggling duties up above the skies - YES, the bakebook is definitely inching its way to the finish line.
So, in the meantime, I share random photos of food and places from the different cities I have been flying to on our FB page (https://www.facebook.com/chefnouel?ref=hl).
Also, I can see how everyone on Facebook seems to be busy rummaging through old photos for their moment to shine in their #TBT or Throwback Thursdays. I did try to participate but later on I noticed there was nothing really significant about mine as I have always been bald since 25 (now you can laugh out loud).
While cleaning up my computer, I saw thousands of photos dating back as late as 2006. I saw the opportunity to share to everyone how I progressed from a shy and anxious demi chef de partie to a trail-blazing and nifty chef patissier that I am today. Isn't that a more inspiring version of a #TBT?
Fiji Islands, 2006
My time in Dubai in 2005 was definitely pivotal to my career. However, it was in Fiji in 2006 when I bravely faced the greatest challenge - my first role as an Executive Pastry Chef at the age of 28 despite the unmistakable hesitation. My then Executive Chef, Brendon Coffey, believed I possessed the energy he was looking for who embraced the impossible and out-of-the-box thinking.
At 28 I was living my dreams. My well-appointed room was just a few meters away from the turqouise Fijian sea. Everyday, I woke up to the view of a tropical paradise and lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of crashing waves.
It was also during this period when Accor started rolling out their Lenotre brand in most Sofitel Hotels worldwide including Fiji. I got my accreditation in Sydney along with other chefs who are based in Australia. Since then, Lenotre had a profound influence in my artistry - approaching my creations with the exacting mind of a French Chef Patissier.
It was also during this period when I predominantly dealt with gluten-sensitive guests to a point I became very involved in ensuring there was a dedicated corner for people suffering from Coeliac disease. This proved very helpful when I worked in many other countries.
Apart from a busy life in the kitchen, I spent most of my days off taking photos upgrading my photography skills to a refined level over time. Below were my first achievements.
Working in Fiji Islands came with several challenges. Cyclones and heavy rains were constant nemesis. And just a few months after setting foot, the coup d'état ensued. In the kitchen perspective, high humidity challenged sugar and chocolate works. Moreover, desserts had to be heat-friendly as, obviously, functions were held in open spaces.
It was a bittersweet experience and although it became isolating after a year went by Australia and New Zealand were just a few hours away by plane when I needed a break.
Two unforgettable moments in Fiji were: 1.) Spotted and featured by an international magazine for my unique take on Red Bull (you may download the recipe here) and b.) Coached the pastry team to success in our first entry in the annual Fiji Salon Culinaire.
Despite the near-impossible access to fresh berries and other fancy ingredients and materials, I made the most of what Fiji had to offer. I brought in my Asian influences vis-a-vis tropical desserts to create more varieties - Cassava Cake, Pichi-Pichi, Cassava Roll and Puto.
Having had all the support needed from Chef Coffey, I was a maverick in the kitchen and tried different variations (some, of course, did not end up well) emulating pastry chefs who were leading the industry at that time.
Below: Expressions of my desire to create my own interpretations of common desserts. The French Macarons were the most interesting as I was never mentored since. I relied mostly on guts and research.