It’s not every day that you get to enjoy desserts created by Asia’s Best Pastry Chef. So when esteemed pastry chef Fabrizio Fiorani flew in for a special masterclass that would see him serving up his signature pastries, we jumped at the opportunity to have a taste of his sweet creations.
Held at Hong Kong’s own Italian trattoria CIAK – In the Kitchen, the masterclass was sponsored by Acqua Panna and Valrhona. During the class, Fiorani demonstrated not only his unique creativity in patisserie, but also the Italians’ signature warm nature. Visually striking and spectacular to taste, his desserts came first before we sat down to find out what he’s been up to since winning the prestigious title and leaving Il Ristorante Luca Fantin at Bulgari Hotel in Japan.
What have you been up to since leaving Japan?
I’m back in Rome. I’m sleeping [and I’m based] there for a few days a week as I’m always travelling and consulting, doing masterclasses and special collaborations. Even in the last 20 days or so, I’ve been in Japan for one week, Singapore for one week and now one week here in Hong Kong. So I’m travelling here and there, but I go back to sleep in Rome.
How would you personally describe your pastry style?
It’s Italian. The flavour is pure Italian. But the style is my own — Fabrizio Fiorani style.
You’ve worked at some of the world’s most renowned Michelin-starred restaurants. But was there a restaurant that left a long-lasting impression on you?
All of them gave and left me with something. Technique, human power, everything. I won the title [Asia’s Best Pastry Chef 2019] at Il Ristorante Luca Fantin. I became the best when I was there, so that will stay with me. But my team was, and still is, my best memory of the five years I spent in Japan.
Who has been your biggest influence?
My parents. They taught me how to eat good food. And if you want to cook good food, you need to eat good food. This is very important — they taught me this. For pastry, my biggest influence… Pierre Hermé. When you enter the boutique, I’m always speechless. Everything is just wow.
Do you have a favourite dessert?
Of course, it’s the tiramisu [glasses]. As for anyone else’s… Pierre Hermé makes this dessert [the Tarte Infiniment Vanille] with different kinds of vanilla [from Madagascar, Mexico, and Tahiti]. It’s unbelievable and one of the best things that I’ve eaten in my life. Another is a very beautiful cake make by Japanese pastry chef [Norihiko] Terai [of Aigre Douce in Tokyo]. Terai-san’s vanilla cake is crazy too, it’s so pure!
I heard you started working in a gelato shop at 14 years old. Is that where your love for pastry started?
Gelato is the entry level of pastry. You start to touch [and use] ingredients like egg yolk, cream and chocolate. Then after the gelato, you’ll want some cookies and biscuits. So this was my way in. That’s where it all started, with gelato.
What are your favourite ingredients to use?
You know, I don’t do anything for fashion or for Instagram. I don’t like kiwi, so I never make anything with kiwi. I rarely drink alcohol, so I only use a small quantity of alcohol. A little gin with chocolate maybe. But I make desserts as if I was the customer. I only create what I love myself. If I don’t like it, I wouldn’t give it to my customers.
I love using chocolate. It’s dangerous to leave chocolate with me [he points to the chocolate wrappers he’s left on the table]. I love milk chocolate. For example, for the tiramisu glasses, I use this chocolate, [Valhorna’s] Bahibe Lactée, from Santo Domingo, with high cocoa content at 46%. Milk chocolate with a touch of bitterness is just unbelievable — it balances everything.
Some of your creations have been described as ‘humorous’. Do you agree and if so, why do you do that?
With a smile, you release the tension of the mind. Take the tiramisu glasses [for example], you take a selfie and all your attention is on the dessert. It’s not on your phone or your drink, or your previous main course, it’s all on the dessert. I want people to smile and have fun with my desserts. We need to give happiness, not sadness, to the people. That’s my job. I cannot save the world with dessert, but I can give 20 minutes of happiness to the people.
Is that why you decided to be a pastry chef?
Yes. Ask me to make pasta with tomato. I cannot, I’m not able to do it. Dessert is my thing.
Do you think you really are Asia’s best pastry chef?
My first fan is me. But every night before I go to bed, I always ask [myself], “Can you can do it? Maybe yes, maybe no?” But that’s OK, it’s important to feel uncomfortable. If you feel comfortable, like on this chair I’m sitting on, you cannot make nice things. You need to be uncomfortable to create. Think about a lobster, it can grow for infinity. Why? Because every time it grows, it will change its shell and grow again. It’s not comfortable to stay in the same shell. So in order to grow, you need to be uncomfortable.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Pastry is important in my life, but it’s not everything. There are movies, shows, books and people. There are a lot of things I take inspiration from. Food is a small part of it. But there are so many places to find it. For example, the glasses [for the tiramisu] were made for Massimo [Bottura, the celebrated Italian chef of the three-Michelin-sttared Osteria Francescana]. I was inspired by him and created that.
Have you tried any Chinese desserts while you’ve been in Hong Kong?
I had dinner at China Tang and the duck was unbelievable. But for dessert we had the mango and pomelo sago, which was lovely. Maybe one day I will do something that incorporates these flavours; I can do this with mango and tapioca, why not!