For the last 11 years, the ground beneath my chef feet has been seasonal, local, mostly organic fruit; and my moniker, 'fruit-inspired pastry chef,' has been my guiding force. I have picked fruit, worked for farmers at favorite farmer's markets and eaten my weight in citrus and stone fruit many times over. I said for years anad years that I stayed in California for its gratuitous fruit array.
But here in London, fruit is an afterthought. Besides apples and pears in autumn, and gooseberries, elderflowers and strawberries in summer, which few do better than Britain, fruit comes from very far away and few people know when to buy it at its peak. Most fruit and vegetables are here year round, but flown in from various countries and continents catchers-catch can style, making fruit buying confusing at best.
And because few fruits are grown in British soil, they arrive with a high price tag. Using fruit as a primary focus for a plated dessert, here in London, is a bad idea, cost-wise. But also flavour-wise, because seasonal fruit in South Africa or Spain, or even a country as close as France, is probably not picked and shipped as ripe as one would hope.
All this said, I have found trusted places to buy UK seasonal fruit. And the restaurant I work for is produce-centric and we use an amazing produce purveyor, so I feel infinitely grateful/lucky to have well-chosen product close by.
That said, what desserts are on the horizon?
I'm thinking about tahini, white chocolate, bananas, tamarind, black sesame seeds, grapefruit; Thai coconut soup sorbet; manouri, strawberries & pink peppercorns; gooseberries, mint, rosemary, elderflowers & corn; mango inspired gazpacho; buckwheat & chocolate; brown butter, raw sugar, frangipane & nectarines; young coconut, black rice, caramel. For our retail shop I'm contemplating sandwich cookies, chocolate bouchons, Lamingtons, real graham crackers, verbena profiteroles, tart lemon drizzle cakes, peanut financiers, and rich bread & butter puddings.
Moving to a new place means thinking different. Cooking and baking professionally for a new public means learning about their collective palates and historical connections to food, fruit, baked goods, salt. I can still bring me to the table, but I have to compromise too. I can't move forward: careerwise, dessertwise, bakingwise; if I do not take into consideration new soil, new people, new fruit, new seasons, new pace, new price-point, new retail environment, new attitudes about communication/confrontation, new communication styles, new everything, really.
I look forward to changing styles a bit. While I will always be a fruit-inspired pastry chef, I look forward to thinking differently, in a new way, to meet my new surroundings and continue to grow. One can get too comfortable/ too ghetto-ized/ too smug in one's niche/ geographical area/ style. Stuck.
If nothing else, it should be interesting.