Restless, versatile and perfectionist, Nina Métayer is one of the great idols of the new French pastry. Despite her youth, she already has an intense career that has led her to work both in Michelin-starred restaurants (Le Meurice, under Camille Lesecq, Le Raphäel, under chef Amandine Chaignot, or Jean François Piège’s Le Grand Restaurant) and in the most demanding workshops (Café Pouchkine). A job that soon caught the attention of everyone in the trade, thanks also to her outstanding participation in the 2015 edition of the television competition Qui sera le prochain grand pâtissier. This fame led her to be recognized with two awards for Best Pastry Chef of the year, the first awarded in 2016 by Le Chef, and the second delivered in 2017 by the Gault et Millau guide. Both awards came when she had not yet turned 30 years old.
Métayer currently combines consulting and training with the launch of an online store, Délicatesserie, in which she surprises with very careful confections closely linked to the holidays. Her intention is to create new proposals and at the same time pay tribute to timeless classics, revisiting them with personality, precision and elegance. In addition, her creations are committed to the freshness of the ingredients, to rebalancing the recipes (hence her preference for brown sugar), and to making the most of them.
To corroborate this line of work, she recently has published her first book where she vindicates the beauty of freshness and proposes creations for all moments that invite gourmand pleasure. Now it is time to look back to this Q&A published in so good #26.
Photos: Damien Allard
How did you get into the world of pastry?
Through baking! I discovered the world of craftsmanship in Mexico and fell in love with the country. When I came back, I had the plan to train and become a baker and then settle there. I knew that the French trade opened doors to the world, I was young and I liked a bit of adventure. Later, I initially diversified my knowledge out of necessity in Australia. It was obvious that I had to learn more about pastry, so I came back to continue my training.
Love for a job well done. This energy has driven me for years.
What experiences and references have been most important to you? Why?
The Luxury Hotel is an excellent school. It is tough, but very formative. But long before that, it was my first experience, at Chez Paillat in La Rochelle, that propelled me to where I am. It allowed me to fall in love with the profession and I was lucky enough to meet a boss who passed on to me much more than just knowledge. Love for a job well done. This energy has driven me for years.
How would you define your pastry?
Tasty, I hope. I like new, delicate, not very sweet things. Above all, I want to take into account the experience that the person who is going to taste my creation will have, to make it a moment of pleasure, of sharing. And that this happiness arises every time it is tasted. That is why, first of all, the product must be delicious. Obviously, since the first contact is visual, elegance is important. I like aesthetics as a way of expressing the quality and love we put into our profession.
I am not at all one of those who puts all the attention on the visual and nothing on the palate.
With this in mind, how important is presentation in your creations?
Presentation is both primordial and secondary at the same time. Primordial because it reinforces the desire to taste, speaks of the future experience, and gives us codes to connect the elaboration with references that we keep in our memory: a cake, a flan, an opera… Anyway, I am not at all one of those who puts all the attention on the visual and nothing on the palate. There are cakes that I really do not connect with, such as sponge cakes decorated with a lot of icing. It is just too much!
How do you get a creation with your personality?
I don’t know if that is for me to say, I think others will be able to define that personality better than me. For me, renewal is particularly important, and I love research and discovery. I am always looking for harmonies, the perfect balance. How does that translate? I let others be the judge of that.
Renewal is particularly important, and I love research and discovery. I am always looking for harmonies, the perfect balance.
What do you look at when it comes to finding inspiration and creating new confections?
I love life, everything is inspiring. There are the arts, raw materials, moments in life. At the moment, temporality is an especially important aspect for me. It is a theme that gives structure to my first book.
Speaking of this book, what are your future plans?
I am currently working on several projects, also internationally. And my book is out, published by Éditions de la Martinière. Also, in the future I have a noticeably important and beautiful competition, for which I am constantly training.