Robert Garlick grew up in Cape Town, SA and went to Silwood School of Cookery, a Cordon Bleu cooking school in the Southern Suburbs. He travelled over to the UK soon after his training was finished and landed the premium position in the pastry kitchen of none other than Heston Blumenthal.
He worked hard and became the sous chef of the pastry section at The Fat Duck, an incredible achievement. I caught up with him for a chat about the life of a world class pastry chef.
Q: Why did you go into pastry and what do you love most about it?
I've always had a sweet tooth (and still do) and loved baking from an early age. After school it all just seemed to fall into place and it wasn't me that chose pastry.. I think it chose me.
I love so many things about pastry but one of them is when creating something from scratch. The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction you feel when what you've produced is something delicious and beautiful.
Q: How did you land the job at The Fat Duck?
I was invited to attend a 2 day work trial by the Head pastry chef at the time "Jocky". At the beginning of the trial he warned me that I would have to prepare a dessert on day 2.
I prepared a free-standing creme brulée, macerated strawberries with confit pineapple and a pulled sugar tuile. It went down well and a few weeks later I was hired.
Q: What was is like to work for Heston Blumenthal?
It was an unforgettable experience. He is so inspiring, very driven and completely down to earth.
So many chefs can be quite secretive about recipes or ideas whereas Heston was enthusiastic about sharing and passing on knowledge and information.
Q: Any interesting stories to share?
Around the time of the top 50 restaurant awards there were always famous chefs around Bray (where the Fat Duck is based), I remember 1 such day when we had the priviledge of serving the late Charlie trotter and Thomas Keller in 1 sitting - Quite amazing!
Q: You've now moved on to Le Manoir aux Quat Saison by Raymond Blanc - what is it like being in that equally top kitchen?
Working at Le Manoir has been incredible! I have learned so much about the fundamentals of pastry from a classical perspective, at the highest level and it has been an invaluable time for me.
Apart from the huge kitchens, the hotel is renowned for its fabulous two-acre garden producing 90 types of vegetables and 70 varieties of herbs which are grown for the restaurant.
Q: What do you think of the SA food scene? Who has/is impressed/ing you at the moment?
The food scene in SA is booming! There is such a great food culture and I'm constantly hearing of new restaurants opening up. People seem to be truly excited about food and trying new foods, which is great!
On my most recent visit to SA I was fortunate enough to have meals at The Greenhouse and La Colombe, the food was fantastic at both with such attention to detail in every course and unpretentious service with a local touch.
That's not to say that I haven't had other great meals on previous trips at the likes of Ruste en Vrede, the Test Kitchen and Jordan all of which have been exceptional in their own way.
Q: Would you ever think of coming home and sharing your expertise in a kitchen/your own restaurant one day?
Yes absolutely! But for now there are a few more things I have in the pipeline until I can return.
We're looking forward to that Robert!
- Caro de Waal
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