10 minutes with Sarah Barber
by Sarah Alcock
Sarah Barber is the new executive pastry chef at Café Royal London. This month she launched her dessert-only menu (woopee!!). Suitably excited, we invited ourselves along to 'research' these new dishes and she showed us how to add a few finishing touches to some of her amazing creations...
Introducing... Sarah Barber!
What is your background as a chef?
I've worked at lots of different hotels in London like the Mandarin Oriental, Yauatcha (part of the Hakkasan group), Dinner By Heston Blumenthal, ME London, The Ritz, the Connaught and I've just moved from the Corinthia.
When did you start here at Café Royal?
I started in January, and I'm the first female pastry chef in the whole history of Café Royal, which has been running since 1865. Working as a pastry chef allows me to be precise and refined, yet creative. I've been in the industry for a long time, doing 14-15 hours a day – it's really hard work!
Snickers bar with a chocolate malt shake
What kind of dishes do you like to create?
I like using flavours and ingredients from classic puddings and then transforming them to give them a modern appearance and form. This Snickers bar has a chocolate and almond sponge with salted caramel and peanuts, a milk chocolate and peanut ganache, a peanut mousse and a milk chocolate glaze. We serve it with a chocolate malt shake, which takes people back to their childhoods!
Sarah shows us her classic Snickers dessert – a nutty chocolate heaven!
Who or what inspires you?
My grandfather is the reason I wanted to become a chef, as he was a chef here at Café Royal in the 1960s. Watching him inspired me to follow a career in food.
Chocolate orange toadstools planted in edible chocolate soil!
Are food trends important to you?
I visit Paris about twice a year to see what the patisseries over there are doing. My favourites are Michalak, Pierre Hermé, and Fauchon. I'm also inspired by fashion – while I was working for the Corinthia Hotel London, I made chocolate shoes and lipstick during London Fashion Week. I prefer to be a trendsetter rather than follow other trends.
What's your signature dish?
My take on a Jaffa cake. It's an almond sponge covered in chocolate orange ganache and a chocolate gold glaze. People tell me it's better than eating a normal Jaffa cake!
What's your top tip for making perfect pastry?
The key is precision. People don't realise how scientific it is - if you make a mistake in your measurements, you have to start again – you can't fix it once it's done.
Apart from all being desserts, is there a theme to your menu?
The theme is 'Sarah in Wonderland'. There is a dish called Queen of Hearts made with lovely raspberry, lychee and rose flavours. It shows my passion for taking traditional flavour combinations and giving them a cutting-edge and creative twist in appearance.