In his role as Executive Pastry Chef, Hornigold oversees the pastry sections of the group's portfolio around the world including Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Sake No Hana and HKK as well as a development and production kitchen which produces as many as 12,000 macarons and 1,200 intricate cakes every week. There are restaurants in the UK, China, India, the Middle East and America and over 120 pastry chefs working in twenty different kitchens.
Hornigold acknowledges that it is difficult to control consistency from afar, but he loves the challenges that the different sites bring and is in constant communication with his head chefs. He is also passionate about developing young chefs and all junior chefs are given in-house training in costings, ordering, menu engineering and tasting from day one. To his great pride, Hakkasan pastry alumni are now working in award-winning restaurants and patisseries all over the world.
As well as the difficulties of running multiple kitchens, Hornigold faces the problem of creating desserts that sit well on an Asian menu and that aren’t too heavy or sweet. ‘People tend to over-order in our restaurants and the food has a lot of strong flavours – chilli, oyster sauce, soy sauce – we have to look to sharper, cleansing elements or unexpected ingredients to attain salivation rather than relying on sweetness.’
The result is a selection of literally mouth-watering desserts that look ultra-rich and decadent but are deceptively refreshing and light. For example Yauatcha’s signature petit gateau, Rose delice, is a divine chocolate mousse cut with the acidity of fresh raspberries and HKK’s Trio of chocolate dumplings is served with a cleansing infusion of yuzu and ginger that is poured over the dish at the table.
Hornigold credits some of his previous head chefs with forming his career but he also acknowledges the role that his older brother Simon played in the early days. In the years he spent at TVU in Slough, Graham was also working at The Lygon Arms in Worcestershire and as he didn’t have a car, his brother would drive from St Albans to Broadway every Saturday night to pick him up after service and take him home to St Albans to make sure he could get to college on Monday morning.
Tragically Simon was killed in a car crash in 2006 along with Graham’s other brother, Ian. Graham now runs the marathon each year in memory of Simon who completed the 2006 marathon in aid of Wellchild. ‘I say I run the marathon but my guys say, ‘Chef, you just walk it!’, but I don’t really mind as long as I’m raising funds and awareness for Wellchild . . . Everything I do and put back into this industry, it’s for my brother, without him I don’t think I would have made it as a chef.’
After twenty years of hard graft and inspired creativity, Graham Hornigold is at the very top of his profession. His plans for the future include opening more restaurants around the world and training more chefs in his mould, which can only be a good thing for pudding lovers everywhere.
If your kitchen was on fire, what would you save and why?
My favourite chocolate AlungaTM 41% milk – it’s a slightly sweet milk chocolate that has been through the Q fermentation process. It goes really well with mango, passion fruit, honey, caramel and fleur de sel.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Fresh fruits when they are bang in season. If you asked me which season, I would choose summer and if you asked me which fruit, I would choose peaches. You can’t beat a ripe peach cooked perfectly.
What is your guilty food secret?
If you could only eat at one more restaurant in the world, which restaurant would it be?
My favourite restaurant, DBGB in New York for beer and sausages. But if I had to choose somewhere I hadn’t been before I would say The French Laundry for its setting and culinary history.
What would you be if you weren’t chef?
A Graphic Designer
Who is your culinary hero? And what would you cook them if they were coming round for dinner?
Marco Pierre White for his influence and his legacy – so many of his chefs have given so much to so many. I would probably just give him our tarte tatin and vanilla ice cream to see if it passed the test!
Who would be your fantasy dinner guests?
My two brothers who are sadly not with us any more and some of my old teams, just to catch up
What is your favourite food shop or market?
Brockley Market and Borough Market in London for the energy but I also love little town markets so would have to include St Albans market which I used to work on with my best mate Toby, even though it was on the china stall!
What would your death row meal be?
Homemade Thai beef salad
What is your favourite cookbook?
Patisserie by Pierre Hermé and Dessert Cuisine by Oriol Balaguer – it inspired a generation
What’s your top cooking tip?
Read the recipe through first and get ready
What is your favourite foodie destination in the UK?
Anywhere in London
What ingredients are really worth forking out for?
Good quality meat and fish
What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?
In your opinion, what is the most underrated ingredient/cut of meat/fish?
Milk fed veal is lovely but you never see it
Which dish would you like to be remembered for?
The Yauatcha window! Or the improvements in pastry across Hakkasan group and the chefs we have created. For me, it’s about making pastry chefs so that when I am old and grey and hang up my boots, there are more of these guys who are still producing and creating and teaching in the same way.