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Q&A with Pichet

Read tips to fellow pastry chefs in Dessert Professional's Q&A session with Pastry Chef Consultant Pichet Ong.

 Dessert Professional:

Happy New Year Pichet. What dessert trends did you observe in 2012, and what trends do you see developing in 2013?

Pichet Ong:

In 2013 we will be seeing more pastry and bakery business – large and small – opening up. In the past we’ve seen many celebrity chefs such as Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud opening up dessert shops; this year we will continue to see a bakery attached to the culinary empires of Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Andrew Carmellini, who recently recruited Jennifer Yee to helm his Lafayette bistro.

Following the successes of Neil Robertson (Seattle’s Crumble and Flake), Yigit Pura (San Francisco’s Tout Sweet), Dominique Ansel (NYC), and Vera Tong & TJ Tobias (Brooklyn’s Du Jour), more marquee name pastry chefs are branching out with their own brands, such as Sherry Yard who is revamping Helms bakery in Culver City and Belinda Leong with B patisserie in San Francisco. Most of them also continue to create a line of savory products, or branch out into full blown restaurants such as Elizabeth Falkner with the Neopolitan-style pizzeria Krescendo in Brooklyn, NYC.

Dessert Professional:

Everybody likes to start the new year on a positive path. What are some simple money-saving and profit-producing practices you can recommend to our readers?

Pichet Ong:

One of the ways that pastry chefs can keep control of quality and inventory while wowing customers with a variety of products is to streamline productivity. For example, choose a master dough type that best fits the skills of the staff – and kitchen equipment – such as laminated dough or pretzel dough, and create different products featuring different ingredients using that type of dough, and showcase their shapes differently.

Leftover products and trimmings can also turn into a new item. At Sugar and Plumm for example, we have monkey bread, trifles, and cake pops that are made from components from previous recipes. Particularly with smaller operations, waste and overstocking can be minimized by taking these simple steps and, in turn, yield greater profits.

Dessert Professional:

You have always emphasized the critical importance of a well-planned dessert display case. What are some of your do’s and don’ts of dessert display?

Pichet Ong:

First, put the most appealing products in the front of the case to draw customers in. Keep in mind that customers eat with their eyes first, so in addition to thinking of flavors, think first also about colors, shapes, and sizes, and when displaying them, alternate them so that it looks random and interesting. Anything shiny (or bling-y these days) is always appealing to the eye. FIFO (first in first out) – put the ones to be sold first in the back, or on top, to ensure that products are rotated properly, and are easier to grab.

Don’t overcrowd the case. Bear in mind that sometimes too many products can cause the products to compete with themselves and in the end a customer may leave confused and not buying anything. A lot of hard work and thought are put into creating these edible beauties, so you want to display them with ample space in between and in good light – like a boutique!