We have interviewed Marike Van Beurden, a young Dutch pastry chef that did not even shrink before she entered her first competition, the Dutch Pastry Award, and her artistic piece ended up on the floor. Years later, she came back to win that same award, becoming the only woman to achieve this so far.
Van Beurden has worked in London with Pierre Gaignaire, in Paris’s George V restaurant, in Valance with Anne Sophie Pic and Philippe Rigollot (chef listed in so good #4)… and still had time to win the prestigious international competition for restaurant desserts C3 in Madrid before moving to Hong Kong to head the dessert station at the restaurant Caprice at the Four Seasons hotel.
Her most recent appearance on the public stage was the last edition of the World Chocolate Masters, where she earned a creditable second place. As was the case in the competition in her country, perhaps she will be back to win it someday.
There is no break for Marike Van Beurden, talent and self-respect in equal measure. No need to make predictions, we know she will reach anything she desires.
What does a Dutch pastry chef do in Hong Kong?
Having worked for Four Seasons before, when the previous Pastry chef of Caprice left they called me to ask if I wasn’t interested. HK opportunities had been coming my way already before, but each time -either professional or personal- the time wasn’t right.
This time I thought ‘if I don’t do it now I may never do it’ so sold most of my stuff, a part on the boat, a part send to my parents, and off I went to a city I had never even been before.
How do you define your desserts? What is the concept? What do you seek with your design?
I like light, not too sweet, interesting flavors, something that boosts you even at the end of a long dinner. A philosophy that I always have in mind is: When you see the dessert coming in front of you, you must go WOW! But then when you taste it that WOW! needs to be even bigger! There is nothing more disappointing than seeing a beautiful dish but then tasting it and realizing it wasn’t that great. Yes, appearance is important as we initially eat with our eyes. But after all, food is all about taste – that should not be forgotten. Honestly, I would rather eat a little less nice looking dish but be totally impressed by its flavors. Inspiration can be found all around us all day long as long as you keep your mind and eyes open. Friends always laugh at me when I make one of those comments while walking down a street and seeing something I like and go; oh wow that would be cool as a chocolate piece, or dessert shape.
Nothing is more disappointing than seeing a beautiful dish but then taste-wise it isn’t that great
Marike Van Beurden wins the international desserts contest C3 in 2010. How important is to win a contest like that?
Being the representative for France, as a Dutchie was an amazing experience, especially knowing who the judges where in Paris, all great French pastry chefs with Pierre Hermé as president. Having been voted there ‘best dessert’ was just a dream come true.
I still remember the moment very clearly when my name was announced by Pierre Hermé.
Winning the whole contest… of course everybody was amazed at me winning the title, but I was never sure I would really be able to make it.
The whole experience was fantastic, for me it was really important as you measure yourself with several other candidates from all over the world who have all been selected as the best in their selection competitions. There was great press around this competition, and yes, it was great that I won this just before moving to Hong Kong as it was an extra feature to my arrival here – from just being MVB, I became MVB who had won the C3.
What’s your impression about your recent participation in The World Chocolate Masters?
It was even bigger, first of all winning in my own country (while having prepared all in Hong Kong) was amazing. I hadn’t done any competition back home since winning the Dutch Pastry Award in 2004. And to battle with/against the best of the world in a live two/three day competition was an absolute dream come true.
It took a lot to be there, money wise looking for the sponsors, time wise; giving up your personal life, and mentally as you are looking for absolute perfection. What an amazing period though. You learn so much about your profession but also about yourself and the people helping you without expecting something back is just fabulous.
Without my Coach Marijn Coertjens I would never have been able to do this as you need the moral and technical support.
This has helped me improve so much on loads of fields, for example I would not have been able to do this without the support of my team here at Caprice. They showed me what they are capable of by giving them more responsibilities. And also their willingness to work harder to keep you free has touched me deeply.
Friends always laugh at me when I make one of those comments while walking down a street and seeing something I like and go; oh wow that would be cool as a chocolate piece, or dessert shape
As a connoisseur of pastries in different parts of the world, what has surprised you most lately? Where?
It was two years ago, I already was in Tokyo, but that city lived up to my expectations and even more with all those pastry shop of such extreme high quality. Tel Aviv, Israel, I have been there twice over the past 18 months, so many artisans, restaurants, healthy places but especially their local produce. This place keeps on amazing me. They just love their food and live for it. On my last trip, this lovely photographer who saw me working at the WCM in Paris took me to a small chocolaterie, great chocolates – an amazing energy and lovely person behind the concept. And I was lucky to meet two other pastry chefs who happened to walk in, and we all got put to work by Ika. What keeps on amazing here in HK, they keep on loving their classics, even though there are so many French pastry shops that opened, the locals stay very committed to their egg tarts and fresh cream cakes. Back home and in Belgium the level keeps on improving and love to go and visit pastry shops, especially of some young just started pastry shops. The one that has impressed me recently is that of Joost Arijs in Gent, a young guy who opened his own shop and whose book has just come out.