How I got to where I am now:
I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a chef. My grandfather was a chef and his uncle owned a patisserie in Paris, so I was pretty certain this was the career for me.
When I was 15, having been interested in cooking at school, I was given a week’s work experience with Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck and it was then that I realised I wanted to be like him.
From then on I worked in local restaurants alongside studying for my 1st Class Honours degree at Thames Valley University (now the University of West London). Not only did I learn the vital skills that would stand me in good stead for years to come at university, but it was there that I fell in love with pastry, chocolate and desserts and where I met my friend and mentor Yolande Stanley MCA, my pastry tutor and the person who introduced me to WorldSkills – the event that would, in time, propel my career beyond my imagination.
In 2007, following two years of intense training, I was picked to represent the UK at the WorldSkills competition in Japan and I became the first British pastry chef to win the coveted Medallion of Excellence.
On my return to the UK I went back to the Fat Duck for a real stage, but realised that a life in restaurants and hotels wasn’t for me, so I went to work in patisseries, knuckling down for nearly three years at Bachmann’s Patisserie in Thames Ditton. It was there I learnt classic techniques that are now helping me in my new role as pastry chef consultant to Waitrose where I’m working with Heston Blumenthal once again as well as Delia Smith, Waitrose’s executive chef Jonathan Moore and a very talented team of productive developers and buyers.
Within the last year I have had the privilege of designing and launching products such as Heston’s Royal Trifle, Black Forest Buche and Popping Candy Tart. This year looks even more exciting with a relaunch of desserts to come.
In my new role I can now use all the training and skills I have learnt from Bachmann’s, WorldSkills and The Fat Duck to create great desserts for a wider audience but also show entrepreneurial skills in product development.
My biggest challenge:
Getting through day three of WorldSkills. When you compete in that competition you are treated like an athlete and are under a huge media spotlight, not to mention the pressure on your shoulders to do well from the hospitality industry and home.
On the first day the adrenaline is pumping, so the day normally goes well. On day two you are pleased if day one went well and generally just get stuck into the competition, but day three is the danger zone: the end is in sight and you might think that medals are being engraved with your name, but when you’re in that mind set things can trip you up.
Fatigue also kicks in and that’s what affected me. One thing went wrong and then the domino effect kicked in and everything started to go wrong. Not only were 16 world experts in pastry watching, but cameras of the Japanese and British media were flashing away – it was awful.
However, thanks to the UK Team Leader and my mentor, Yolande, I was able to take time out, have a pep talk and came back and produced my best chocolates of the competition, receiving the highest mark, so it wasn’t all bad.
My greatest achievement:
Becoming one of the youngest winners of the Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence for Pastry in and the first British pastry chef to win a Medallion of Excellence at WorldSkills in the same year. I’d spent four tough days competing against chefs from 16 countries, so was proud to win the coveted award and for beating France, Germany and Switzerland.
My advice for budding chefs and pastry chefs:
Do what your heart tells you. If you want something then go for it, there’s nothing to lose. I tend to tell people to buy and read as many cookery books as possible from Michelin giants to TV chefs, there will always be something you can take from them and just be passionate about what you do.
If I wasn’t working in hospitality I’d be:
A jazz singer. I trained with Jacqui Dankworth, Tina May, Sara Colman, Anita Wardell and have had the privilege of working with Laurie Holloway, Malcolm Edmonstone, Simon Colam, Dave Olney, Harold Fisher and Paul Morgan. I've also been executive of the Montgomery Holloway Music Trust for over five years and regularly perform with Laurie and the Trio.
Find out how to make three chocolate desserts and hear Torrent's tips on how to maximise profit from your Valentine's Day dessert sales in our exclusive video next week.
Will Torrent's live Callebaut masterclass, hosted by Alan Murchison, will take place on 23 March 2012, streamed live from this site from 3pm. Register to view the masterclass by emailing HXcebzbgvbaf@oneel-pnyyronhg.pbz.