January 2020 was the year of the rat in Chinese culture. This is the first zodiac sign in the Chinese tradition. In Chinese culture, rats represent working diligently and thriftiness, which symbolizes wealth, fortune, and prosperity. Who would have thought that just weeks later we would hear terrible news about a new virus called Covid-19.
I was in Paris during Fashion Week, and it just so happened that the same week was the Chinese new year. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, located in the fancy 1er. Arrondissement on Rue St. Honore, was the right place to stay and celebrate. The hotel is home to Sur Mesure Restaurant, a two Michelin star, avant-garde gourmand restaurant directed by Chef Thierry Marks, who also oversees all the hotel food operations.
The hotel is also home to a cake boutique. In this elegant setting you can try unique creations created by Executive Pastry Chef Adrien Bozzolo and his pastry team. He is in charge of the sweet creations for Sur Mesurepar par Thierry Marx, Camelia, L’honore du Cake Boutique, room service and all the catering at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris.
I had the chance to interview Bozzolo, with a strong passion and solid experience in prestigious French pastry establishments. His talent was discovered in 2014 when he became a participant in the successful TV show, “Qui Sera Le Grand prochain Grand Patissier”, where he competed among other top French chefs and made it to the finale.
His elegant creations are inspired in nature’s shapes, colors, and perfumes. Chef Adrien loves to associate fruits and aromas, paying extra attention to the aesthetics of his modern creations which take your breath away. His pastries are like works of art with balanced flavors, excellent contrast between textures, and a perfect sweet flavor.
Where did you grow up and how did you discover your passion for the pastry arts?
I am originally from Lorraine, in the North of France. I started my apprenticeship in the culinary arts when I was fifteen. I started as a cook doing savory cuisine and everything changed the year I met Chef Patrice Ulmer, he introduced me to the pastry world. I started learning from him and soon after when I finished working in the kitchen, I would go back to the pastry shop to learn more from him helping in the dessert production. I have chosen this profession by passion. Then I did one more year of studies in pastry and he made me discover the passion for this profession.
When did you arrive in Paris and why did you decide to come to Paris?
I decided to move to Paris in 2012 because Paris is the world capital of pastry, here you can find the best patisserie in the world. It is full of excellent options to enjoy French pastries and learn from the best. I was hired at Pattiserie des Reve with Angelo Musa at the time of Philippe Conticini. Working with these incredible chefs, I was in charge of the R&D.
I loved working there and I respect Angelo and Philippe a lot, they are my friends and loved creating incredible desserts! I enjoyed my time working with them over almost two years. I changed jobs not because I didn’t like my job but because I was ready to move on and I was fortunate to get a new job at the three Michelin star restaurant, Pavillion Ledoyen.
“I decided to move to Paris in 2012 because it is the world capital of pastry”
Tell us about your experience on the acclaimed TV show “Qui Sera Le Prochain Grand Patissier”?
This happened in 2014. I was working at Pavilion le Doyen and four months later, I got an invitation to participate in the TV show, “Qui sera le Prochaine Grand Patissier 2014”. I left a team in place at the pasty shop at Pavilion Ledoyen while I was busy with the filming of the show, and since I made it to the finale the filming lasted almost one year. I didn’t win, but I made it to the finale and I feel very proud of the work I did. It was a huge challenge and I feel happy I participated in the TV show. When I was done I went back to work at Pavilion Ledoyen for a couple of months, but then I had a lot of job offers after the show.
I applied to be the pastry chef at Chez Michelle Gaston, a two Michelin star French restaurant and worked there for 18 months. I left Paris for a few years and went to work at the Gastro Restaurant of Patrick Henriroux at Hotel La Pyramid.
Can you tell us when and how you decided to join the Mandarin Oriental, Paris?
After working for 18 months at Hotel la Pyramid, my wife and I decided to move back to Paris. I joined Mandarin Oriental, Paris in March 2017, so 4 years ago. I really like this hotel, its elegant ambiance and decor is unique to the city. There are many 5-star hotels in Paris with great service and excellent food. Here at the Mandarin we create excellence for our guests. I feel fortunate to work with Chef Thierry Marks, we have a great relationship, we work together, and he always lets me create my own way. It’s easy to achieve good pastries when you can work with exceptional products. I have the chance to have a good team and to showcase our pastries in this outstanding property.
“I feel fortunate to work with Chef Thierry Marks, we have a great relationship, we work together, and he always lets me create my own way. It’s easy to achieve good pastries when you can work with exceptional products”
You took over the Pastry Shop when former pastry Chef Pierre Mathieu left. What was the transition like? What challenges did you face?
I think Chef Pierre Mathieu simply left because he opened his pastry shop in Bordeaux, he left on very good terms. The transition was complicated at the beginning; the difference between my pasty style and his are very different.
The pastry team left in place are all almost gone now, I don’t say this in a mean way, but in a professional way, since everyone is entitled to look for what’s best for them. My pastry sub chef worked with chef Mathieu, and we have a whole new pastry team.
When I first took the job, I decided to work on each of the different food venues of the hotel. I started with Sur Measure, the gastronomical restaurant in the hotel creating new desserts and petit fours, then we changed the cake shop creating a new line of pastries and cakes.
Can you tell us what inspires you to create for L’honore Cake boutique? Would you consider it one of the best in Paris?
The pastry boutique has a vitrine where we display my creations, where less is more. We offer an array of petit gateaux, travel cakes, and confections made daily in our pastry shop.
The hotel is located on Rue St. Honore, so one of my specialties is the traditional pastry treat: Gateaux St. Honore! This traditional Parisian cake is the star of L’honore cake boutique, it has been named the best St. Honore in Paris. I don’t know about that but I wanted to create a unique emblematic dessert that could represent a unique design, respecting the traditional flavors to achieve the perfect cake.
I love to see our Cake Shop full of cakes. I am very proud of it. I also love to create new pastries, working with the team to experiment with new ideas. My team helps me to push my own limits every day at Mandarin Oriental Paris.
“Because I am at the Mandarin Hotel we like to use Asian flavors mixing them with French pastry techniques”
What is it like to be the Executive Pastry Chef at one of the top hotels in Paris and do you think this is a better property than other 5 star hotels in Paris?
I don’t know if this hotel is better or not, that’s hard to say. Every fancy hotel in Paris has outstanding Pastry Chefs, for examples Cedric Grolet at Le Meurice, Francoise Perret at The Ritz, or Michael Bartocetti from Le George V. The reputation of the 5 stars hotel in Paris is unbeatable and every property has excellent pastries. I like the Mandarin group, I am very happy to be the pastry chef for Mandarin Oriental in Paris where I have creative freedom and can also buy quality ingredients.
What do you think is most important when creating a new dessert?
For me, the most important thing for creating a dessert is what produce you can get according to the season, like fruit for example. I use spices and herbs and I like to use exotic ingredients from around the world. Then I choose the product and I imagine what can be done mixing different techniques and ingredients, creating textures and balanced flavors. I have to find the right balance between all ingredients. Finally, I work on the design and last-minute visual details of the cake.
Because I am at the Mandarin Hotel, we like to use Asian flavors mixing them with French pastry techniques.
“Going into a competition takes a lot of resources… I think is very hard for chefs to leave their workplaces to pursue fame”
What do you think is happening with the French Pastry teams losing top culinary competitions against Switzerland like The World Chocolate masters or the World Pastry Cup?
Nowadays chefs have no time, going into a competition like this takes a lot of resources. It is really hard to have a job and then get off work and get together to practice for hours. I know this because I participated to be part of the French pastry team, I made it to the World Pastry Cup. When I work at the hotel, I have a lot of work and it is a responsibility. You can’t just leave work and family. It takes a lot of time to practice, sometimes up to 16 hours a day. I think it is very hard for chefs to leave their workplaces to pursue fame.
The maximum honor for a pastry chef in France is to become a MOF, would you like to become a MOF?
Yes, of course, I have already tried la Coupe Du Monde, becoming a MOF is an objective in the future.