The last time I was in a pastry kitchen was quite a while back. I had just finished my A' Levels and started my Hotel Management training at the Sheraton in Doha, Qatar. It was going to be a tough couple of years with 2 years of practical training and 4 years of theory. I decided to cover the 2 years practical parallel to the theory to save time and earn more credits. As if that was not exciting enough, it just so happened that the year I went into the hotel management training, was also the year Kuwait was invaded by Iraq and the first Gulf War began raging through the Persian Gulf.
Believe it or not my father and I were in the midst of it. Soon Doha became the headquarters for the Allied Armed Forces and there I was trying to concentrate on a career I was so passionate about. Well in between scud alarms, gas masks, evacuation training and "what-to-do-in case-of-a-chemical-bomb" workshops, I was swotting over Front Office regulations, Housekeeping procedures and Security guidelines. The practical part of the training was a huge relief as it helped me to enforce my energy and also fear into something sinful. I enjoyed almost each department with equal enthusiasm, but it really was the training in the kitchen that got me tingling. Forget the fact I was not making any fashion statement in my far too big black and white checkered pants, white double breasted shirt and black birkis, I was very happy learning what a mis-en-place or demi glace was. After a four month training in all the sections of the kitchen my last stop was the pasty shop.
I will never forget the day when I was wrist deep in making a Sacher torte and the sirens went off. I had no time to wash my hands and thus had to evacuate to the bunker with hands dripping of chocolate. I am sure I had chocolate all over me as I got smiles from guests and other employees of the hotel. The first thing I did was to look for my dad. Once I spotted him I was relieved. Then I made my way to him and waited. Ahhhh! The wait was sweetened with the licking of the chocolaty hands!! Scuds? Who cares! I was in chocolate heaven.
My trip to Dubai this time was fantastic in terms of food. My last travelogue of Dubai focused on spots I like, the rapid growth and the colors of Dubai. This time I thought it would be great to take a look behind the scenes of a fine hotel. My dad brought me together with the Pastry Chef of the Coral Beach Hotel and we spent a lovely morning discussing, experimenting and creating desserts. This time with no sirens or scuds!!
Tikri Bopitigoda has 25 years of experience as a pastry chef. His specialties are French style desserts and his passion is working with sugar and chocolate. From Sri Lanka he has spent a major part of his life in exotic places like the Maldives and booming cities like Dubai. He puts all his artistic talent into perfectly created desserts, that are almost too much of a shame to really eat.
However, once you taste those desserts it's like dying and going to heaven. That's exactly what happened to me when I tasted one such stellar dessert. It was so indescribably exquisite that all my adjectives to describe it just vanished. I have had many grand desserts in my life but this was a sublime experience. And this dessert was the reason I had to meet the person who created it.
I have to be honest though, the dessert was not the only reason I was excited. The tingling sensation in my tummy was mainly due to being back in the hustle and bustle of a hotel kitchen.
So, I rolled up my sleeves and in between assisting with mousse au chocolat, strawberry mousse cakes, pralines and fruit tarts, I listened to Tikri's exciting story and great tips on dessert making. In between Soeren came in and we got to taste test and I took a few pictures. At the end of the date Tikri and his team gave me a small gift that would put a huge satisfying smile on every baker's smile. I was touched by the lovely gesture. In my bag, I also had the recipe for that perfect dessert tucked away safely.
Soon - I promise!
Talking about extraordinary desserts, I am really excited to share a little piece of news with you. The current issue of Dessert Magazine is featuring Strawberry Mirror Cakes. Page 8 includes one of my photos. How grand is that? I thank Vera from Dessert Magazine for getting in touch with me and to all my Daring Baker mates for daring me to bake and knead!
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