The world of desserts requires great sensitivity in terms of plating. Once the last dishes arrive, the diner’s appetite has already been satisfied. That is why the pastry chef must not only pay great attention to the balance and flavor of his proposals, but also to harmony, proportion and visual elegance. The challenge is great, and more and more professionals are facing it successfully. This is the case of Natalie Eng, who despite her youth has already accumulated a long career in the dessert department of top restaurants, from Alain Ducasse’s Le Meurice, Sorrel in Singapore, or Le Pan and Batard in Hong Kong, where she currently resides and works as a pastry chef consultant. And how would you define your desserts?, we asked her in so good.. magazine #30. Her answer is clear and concise: ‘Quiet sophistication, straightforward and classic.’
The rule of three
As she explains, the key to success in dessert is to keep things simple and elegant, understandable to the diner. To achieve all this, this pastry chef talks about what she calls ‘the rule of three’. Three being the emphasis on three different ingredients/flavours that should come together harmoniously on a plate. I try not to go over that unless it has a purpose in the dessert, otherwise it just gets a little too complicated. Afterwards I filter out the various ways I could incorporate freshness, acidity, creaminess and texture in the way that best makes sense to me.’
‘The rule of three… three different ingredients/flavours that should come together harmoniously. I try not to go over that… otherwise it just gets a little too complicated’
From there, once the flavors and components are balanced, the challenge of achieving aesthetic beauty arises. ‘It is quite important to me. I love the satisfaction of finally getting it all right and seeing a beautiful dessert in front of me. We eat with our eyes first after all!’, she points out.
We don’t miss the opportunity to also ask her about how a pastry chef can define their style in an increasingly globalized and prepared environment. Natalie Eng acknowledges that ‘it could be more challenging, especially with social media. It is easy to get caught up in a state of comparison between what you do vs. what someone else is doing. I try to block out the noise and use it as a tool for inspiration instead. I believe personal style is something that will come naturally to a pastry chef that trusts his or her instincts over years of honing the craft.’
Discover these two recipes by Natalie Eng in so good #30
Sollies Figs, Coconut & Mas Amiel-Fig Leaf Sauce
I would highlight the unlikely flavour combination of coconut and figs with red wine.
I think typically fig desserts are quite cloying and heavy in spices with the general transition from summer to autumnal flavours, but this dessert remains light and still quite fresh from the nutty and floral notes of the coconut and fig leaf oil.
Citrus & Fromage Blanc, Olive Oil, Ginger
Citrus, olive oil and ginger are not uncommon flavours pairing, but this dessert focuses on the unique texture of the meringue croustillant and confit ginger ice cream that lends more of a floral rather than spicy note and really lifts the dessert altogether. The fresh and confit citruses also add depth and texture.