Pearls of Wisdom: Claire Clark

By Becky Paskin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pastry chef, Thomas keller

Claire Clark hopes to open her own restaurant next spring
Claire Clark hopes to open her own restaurant next spring
The former pastry chef at Napa Valley’s The French Laundry has been running a pop-up patisserie at Harvey Nichols in London, and has hopes of opening her own dessert-focused restaurant concept in Mayfair next year

The former pastry chef at Napa Valley’s The French Laundry has been running a pop-up patisserie at Harvey Nichols in London, and has hopes of opening her own dessert-focused restaurant concept in Mayfair next year.

My mother was a semi-professional cellist​ and so music is a really big part of my life. I played the flute and violin and wanted to be a musician. But when my mother said I wasn’t good enough, I decided to be a chef instead. She was right in the end.

Working with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry​ was like living in a perfect world. It’s a well oiled machine and from the gardener to the dishwasher to the tiniest miniscule detail, everything is perfect and nothing goes wrong. Everything is excellence – there is no second standard.

I've always found it very hard to work for someone again​. I was privileged to be working at The French Laundry. When I came back to London I became a really despondent person, having been in such a wonderful place to walk back into an environment that had gone backwards rather than forwards.

Thomas is the most amazing man​. Not just the way he runs his business; he respects and looks after his staff. His restaurant is everything to him and to maintain that he looks after everyone. I’ve never seen it anywhere else before but I’d certainly aspire to be like that and have an operation like that. I’m a better person for having worked there.

The level of British patisserie is incredible.​ The fact that we are represented so well at the World Chocolate Masters and that we can stand there next to the French and be taken seriously is fantastic, and it’s about time. These guys are achieving excellent results and it’s really nice to see.

My pop-up patisserie at Harvey Nichols​ is a trial run for a restaurant I want to open in spring next year. We’re looking at sites in Mayfair and Knightsbridge.

I want to move away from the clinical​. I think a lot of pastry chefs who are running their own operations at the moment are French and male, and while I love that feel, I find as a female that it’s cold. So I want to bring in more of a decadent, luxurious feel to it.

There are a lot of things I’m doing now that are very American.​ I have strawberry fizzing marshmallows, caramel corn and schmorz.

I think the British palate is changing.​ The English are slow to take on new ideas; they will always go with what they know. But there are those people that will go for something a little different. We’ve actually done very well in the pop-up shop with sweets you wouldn’t think would sell here.

My favourite thing at the moment is the Jaffa Cake.​ It’s something you had as a child but really wasn’t great – the sponge was dry and the jelly was synthetic. So I’ve taken that concept and made it over. It’s an adult Jaffa Cake. An XXX version. You should only try it if you like chocolate.

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1 comment

Pastry

Posted by Julie,

Good luck to her as she will need it. William Curley and Pierre Herme have shops now in the west end and both are far superior pastry chefs than Claire.

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