Independent Chef Lavinia Cerrone
shares her unique ‘fine pastry story’.
We sat down with Lavinia Cerrone, Independent Pastry Chef, to hear her story of how she transformed a great passion into a profession. She talked to us about how she selects fine food ingredients, the role of presentation and how consumers’ turn towards healthy eating affects her ideas and creations.
Lavinia, your are an Independent Pastry Chef. Tell us, how did it all start for you? Why Pastry?
In my family, we are all pretty good cooks, but nobody loved making desserts. Since I have a sweet tooth, I had to find find a solution! I was about 11 years old when I decided I had to replicate my favourite dessert “risolatte” (a rice pudding), but the result was terrible and that was unacceptable for me! Since I am very stubborn, I decided I had to get better. I always say it all started because of my hard-headedness.
It does require a great love for food to pursuit a profession like that. What’s the importance of dedication and passion into what you do?
It may sound like a set phrase, but it is fundamental. Very often from the outside it is impossible to comprehend how much of your life it takes up, and this is hard to explain. For me, cooking and plating is like a great love, it demands but also gives back a lot. As a woman, in certain contexts, it is harder because it is a very physical labor and because this is still a male-dominated environment. If I hadn’t had such a great passion I would have given up a long time ago but, as I said, I am pretty stubborn!
‘My dishes need to tell a story, that’s what is
important to me.’
‘Summer’ by Lavinia Cerrone
Your plates are each one a separate piece of art! How do you come up with new ideas and concepts?
First of all, thank you! I love art in all its forms and believe that the visual impact of a dish represents 50% of its success and too often this aspect is neglected. Of course, it all starts with an idea I want to express, each dish should be an experience and not just “eating”. Often, this is one of the biggest barriers, especially here in Italy where people expect huge “nonna” portions. My dishes need to tell a story, that’s what is important to me.
What is the role that ingredients play in constructing a new concept/ plate?
Ingredients are fundamental, they are the stars of the show. I always start from the ingredients and their proportions in the dish, their colours, their aromas. I like taking risks and am not afraid to experiment and go beyond conventions. For example: would you ever think that dried Patanegra prosciutto, dark chocolate, and extra virgin olive oil could be an exceptional dessert? Try it! The key is always this: experiment, create and do not be afraid.
‘Seasonality is fundamental to ensure
the best quality in the products we chose.’
How do you go about discovering and selecting fine food products or ingredients?
I am very fortunate to live in a big city, Rome, Italy and therefore have the opportunity to explore and discover new ingredients with very few limitations with I can use. I often visit local markets or farmer’s markets to look for the right ingredients. Seasonality is fundamental because it is crucial to have the best quality in the products we chose. Very often when I consult for restaurants, I feel that seasonality is underestimated even though it is necessary in order to express the product’s maximum potential and to keep food costs low.
‘I personally focus a lot of my attention
on healthy eating options.’
People are becoming more and more conscious of their health nowadays. Is that influencing Pastry chef creations and ideas?
It’s not easy to associate health with dessert. Trying to create a product that is suitable for specific low-calorie or vegan diets is not a given in pastry and that is why I believe we still haven’t reached a satisfactory level from this point of view. I personally focus a lot of my attention on this, I often create “vegan” or “raw food” desserts, I try my best to open people up to this concept. I was a vegetarian for many years and know how easy it is to feel excluded when you follow a specific diet and go out to a restaurant. I don’t find this fair and that’s why when I create menus I always try to include a few options that are just as tempting for people that chose this life-style.
Do you have a signature plate that you would like to talk about?
My signature dish is called “Summer” and is a white chocolate and chamomile bavarois, apricot curd, fresh cherries, rhubarb reduction, meringue and green apple skin. I created this dish in a moment of major changes in my life and is dedicated to my family. The ingredients that I decided to use all remind me of my origins: white chocolate that my mother loves, apricots are my grandparents’ favourite fruit, and cherries remind me of when I was young and would eat basketfuls of them while watching the sunset with my sister. I am very attached to this dish. (Photo above).
If you could choose one or two fine food products/ingredients that inspire you and that you love working with as a chef what would those be?
My favourite ingredient to work with is mango. It’s an ingredient that has many properties and can be used in many different ways in pastry. It has a beautiful colour, a unique flavour and can be sweet or acidic depending on how you decide to use it. Another ingredient that I use often is white chocolate because I find that used in the right proportions it can be a fantastic protagonist but also an element that can enhance other flavours.
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