Talking about passion may seem a hackneyed theme at this point, but how can you define what a pastry chef feels when she works for 16 hours in the most absolute happiness, waking up the next day wanting to repeat such an intense day? The calling for pastry came late for the Russian chef, Nina Tarasova, but she has decided to make up for lost time with an unbridled passion. France is her promised land and cannot be more than six months without setting foot in this country. The French training of this Cacao Barry ambassador and her busy schedule of demonstrations, courses and counseling in Europe and the Far East are making her a well-known name. Her future is increasingly promising.
Why did you decide to become a pastry chef?
Very rarely, but it happens – that some people, since they are born, are destined to have a great future. Mozart could write a Symphony when he was just 5 years old. Einstein was a child when he expressed interest in the theory of relativity. Michelangelo used to play with a hammer and chisel in his cradle. Even in the pastry chef profession there are stars where natural talents and intuition merged – this is Philippe Conticini. And for example Pierre Hermé started to study pastry arts at the age of 14.
I can’t say that I have been cooking all my life and that the first memory from my childhood is my vague image shrouded in a haze of flour. No. I have two high educations in other areas – director-producer and HR in IT area. But it always seemed to me that it wasn’t my place. I woke up one day when I was almost 24 years old and thought: ‘What if I cooked something special?’ And suddenly this ‘special’ was successful, so I decided to devote my life to a pastry. I cooked, tried, experimented, combined, erased, drew, built the schemes, tried again and enjoyed the result. France was and remains for me as a country–discovery in the world of culinary skills. People can say anything about other countries – everyone has the right to give their opinion, but for me France is not only a country that brought food into the cult and art for me, nor just a place of quality products and famous Pastry chefs… but it’s the country of my soul.
Even though it’s very hard to follow your dreams, how can you live if you don’t have any purpose in your life? What should you do if it’s a part of you? I felt asleep thinking about cakes, I saw cakes in delirium and silently cried into the pillow because I couldn’t just stand, go to the kitchen and start to bring ideas to life because of a weakness, chills and high temperature. I was dreaming of new ideas of assembly, decoration and flavor combination. Was it normal? I don’t know, I just can’t live otherwise.
Which are the professionals who more have influenced in your work and your style?
Certainly on the first place is Pierre Hermé, because I studied the basics of pastry art and even French language from his book PH10. Also, I want to mention Adriano Zumbo and Kirsten Tibballs from Australia. Excellent skills!
How do you define your style? How do you achieve your own style?
My style is – maximum natural product, ingredient, color and taste. It’s also the lightness and elegance of forms and great work with chocolate.
Color plays one of the most important roles in my cakes, because cakes get the first impression due to their appearances
What role does color play in your cakes?
Certainly color plays one of the most important roles in my cakes, because cakes get the first impression due to their appearance. Thanks to color, we imagine what taste will be in a future – if it has warm or cool shades, chocolate or fruits… And we should imagine the taste before we taste a piece of dessert.
What are the main steps needed to create a fine cake and a fine dessert?
First I create dessert on a paper. I always have a notepad and color pencils in my bag. Color is very important for me. Ideas come to me everywhere – in the underground, cafe, during working process and even in my dreams. I can wake up at night, schematically sketch the idea that comes to me, describe a composition and fall asleep again. And in the morning, I will draw in details, paint and describe all the layers. When the image is ready, I start to think about the combinations that I drew. I don’t know how but I feel the taste even when I just think about it. I can easily imagine if it will be gentle or sharp, harmonious or not. I like to experiment and sometimes to ‘play’ with the products that at a first glance seem incongruous – yogurt, honey, wine; saffron and chocolate; vegetables and spicy herbs with berries and fruits. The scheme of the dessert is very important for me. I always make a scheme so that the dessert has a ‘picture’ inside. So the cake has not only a nice appearance but also looks great when you cut it.
How have your creations evolved in the last years?
They have evolved so much. Earlier I worked with the shapes that I had and I didn’t think of something unusual, of ‘turning things upside down’ or creating something unique. But now I try to expand my worldview and I teach my students to think outside the box, to think one step ahead. It is a hard work, almost 3D graphics, to see the same things, but in a completely different look, so that you create décor so that it turns the circle into a square. I try to work more with my favorite chocolate, to set the most interesting ideas into the simple shapes. It should be fresh and strong, stylish and popular. Because Liz Carroll said it right: ‘You should run like hell, just to stay on a place, but if you want to get somewhere, you need to run two times faster!’ I always wanted to make a little magic and I hope that I manage to do it with my desserts.
The scheme of the dessert is very important for me. I always make a scheme so that the dessert has a ‘picture’ inside. So the cake has not only a nice appearance but also looks great when you cut it
What do you think about the dynamism of Russian pastry?
Unfortunately, Russia is far behind Europe in terms of gastronomy. We have very small percentage devoted to the development of this segment. We try, we move slowly, but we are moving forward. However, with a delay of several decades. But nobody can say that we don’t have any chance to make a great leap forward. We do have! I spend a lot of master classes including Russia. I see a large number of bright eyes and hands, who are hungry for action. I see so many young people who want to work, want to move pastry art forward, want to overcome their capabilities and spin a little this small world. Looking at all this I want to say – I believe in us, that everything will be successful and certainly delicious!
You will find two very special creations in so good #15