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Daniel Fletcher – Pastry Consultant

Daniel Fletcher: pastry consultant

by Clare Gazzard Thursday, July 9, 2015

Daniel Fletcher has worked as a top level Pastry Chef, and now as a Pastry Consultant for such prestigious names as Jason Atherton, Gordon Ramsay and Tony Fleming. We find out what it means to be a consultant in today's fine dining industry.

Clare juggles a love of food and passion for spreadsheets as Content Producer for Great British Chefs.

In a world where we’re obsessed with watching amateur bakers burn biscuits and topple tarts on TV, it’s often easy to forget the real skill, passion and determination it takes to work with pastry at a professional level. Most chefs will have a base knowledge of pastry techniques, but usually rely on a specialist chef or team to cover everything from decadent desserts to breakfast buns. In an ideal world, this is supplied in house, but sometimes staff turnover or creative challenges may leave a hole in a restaurant’s profile. This is where the role of a pastry consultant comes in, a pastry chef with the specialist skills, yet versatility, to jump into any restaurant situation.

Daniel Fletcher

Having highlighted this gap in the market, pastry chef Daniel Fletcher has taken the next step and moved from working kitchen stations across the world, to setting up on his own as a Pastry Consultant. With an impressive CV to date, Fletcher is well placed to offer advice based on genuine experience and knowledge, despite still being relatively young for the culinary world.

Spotted by one of the examiners, Lisa Crowe, during his finals at Westminster College, this led to a job with her in Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The first in a string of top rate restaurants in London, Australia and America, he followed with stints at Aurora at the Great Eastern Hotel, Gordon Ramsey at The London in New York, maze London, maze Melbourne, Angler at the South Place Hotel with Tony Fleming, and then Jason Atherton’s City Social.

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Daniel Fletcher at work

The latter three of these were all new restaurant openings, something which helped prompt the move from kitchen to consultancy. “I kind of did back to back openings… the first 6 months of an opening are the hardest”, as he describes the need for extreme hard graft and endless adaptability to cope with new staff, untried menus and things never quite turning out as planned. Stepping back into consultancy “the biggest thing for me was flexibility” as this meant having the opportunity to work with different people, make contacts in the industry and work on the ultimate goal of setting up his own café.

The variety of consultancy work seems to be a perfect fit for Fletcher, as it’s also what he loves about working with pastry “there’s such a broad spectrum… everyday’s different”. Currently employed by two top London hotels (South Place Hotel and One Aldwych Hotel), the two main streams of his consultancy work are based fairly equally around developing dishes and menus, and staff training.

Development

A restaurant menu is a continually evolving piece of work; from its initial conception it needs to adapt to the changing seasons and the availability of fresh produce, to the fickle nature of food fads and trends, and to the feedback and demand of the paying customer.

This is just as relevant for pastry as it is for the main menus, and can present its own unique challenges. For One Aldwych Hotel, Executive Chef Dominic Teague has decided the principle restaurant Indigo will have a completely gluten- and dairy-free menu, a considerable undertaking where pastry (traditionally heavy with flour, butter and cream) is concerned. His role as consultant has been to come up with the initial dessert dishes for the relaunch of the restaurant (a 2 month job), then he will be called back to undertake the seasonal changes needed later in the year. “It’s lucky this time of year as there’s lots of fruits around I can use” and the initial menu does indeed focus on fresh fruits, vibrant jellies and refreshing sorbets, although Fletcher is expecting a slightly harder task when asked to look at the winter menu…

 

Tony Fleming, Executive Chef of the Michelin-starred Angler restaurant at South Place Hotel, aims to change the a la carte menu several times a year and the set menus every few weeks. Iterations of “tasting and tweaking” are the norm for any new dishes, where Fleming says it’s very important that they sit in the actual restaurant and eat a new dish “as a customer would”, before trying them as a ‘special’ on the existing menu to gauge feedback from the diners. Fleming talks of the benefits of having a “fresh pair of eyes” to look objectively at dishes, bounce ideas off and to make sure the dishes stay up to date, while the availability of fresh produce is something key to both Fleming and Fletcher’s ethos, and often sparks the idea behind a dish change; “[Tony] might say to me we’ve got some doughnut peaches, or whatever, coming in next week, let’s try and do something with those.”

 
Strawberry cheesecake dessert
Strawberry cheesecake dessert
Milk chocolate dessert
Milk chocolate dessert

Training

Training in the kitchen could mean learning how to make a new dish from scratch, using new equipment, or refreshers on skills and techniques.

Fletcher puts a lot of emphasis on training for several reasons. Firstly, both he and Fleming discuss the importance of dishes being sustainable, “I need to know that if I’m not here, or Tony’s not here, then the food’s going to be the same… on a daily basis it needs to be deliverable. It’s great for me to come in with all these great ideas and say let’s do this and let’s do that, but it needs to be efficient, it needs to be workable.” In terms of getting a new dish on the menu, this would mean that Fletcher creates the dish, writes out recipe cards for the team, trains the team, then runs a full service with them to ensure they’re happy.

 
 
Dan’s very hands on and still not shy of doing a long day in the kitchen

Tony Fleming

This part is key for Fletcher, and something Fleming heavily admires; “Dan’s very hands on and still not shy of doing a long day in the kitchen” when required, as Fletcher says “The more hands on you can be with your staff, for me personally, the better it is for everyone… Show them why you’re doing it… that’s another big thing, explain the reasons for doing things.”

This leads on to Fletcher’s next personal focus for training, the importance of learning. “I’ve always had the belief that once I stop learning, and don’t think that there’s anything more for me to gain, then I’ve moved on… To keep the staff engaged and for them to be learning on a daily basis, for them to feel like they’re part of the team, keep them engaged and they do a better job, they’ll be happy and it’s good for their personal growth as well.” This focus on team development and personal growth really makes Fletcher stand out from the crowd; he genuinely cares about what he does.

Passion

When asked what he’d like to be known for, the first thing that Fletcher thinks of is “to be known as someone who gives something back. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of chefs who’ve taken the time out to work with me” and he is just as keen to pass that knowledge and experience on to others. Fletcher refers back to working with Claude Lamarche, who took him under his wing at the Great Eastern Hotel, as his main influence on the way that he works; “the systems, the way he worked, the cleanliness in the kitchen, how everything was organised, how he worked on a daily basis, hands down, on that side of things, the best chef I’ve ever worked for… even now I still hear him, saying things in my head as I’m working… I’ve never met anyone that passionate about pastry, well food in general”.

Fletcher himself seems to burn with a quiet fervour, he’s modest and accessible, but still talks with conviction; “for me this isn’t a job, it’s my life… it’s part of everything I do” (which he admits is cheesy). He’s clearly shown he has the passion and drive to work at the highest level in the industry, and then to offer advice to his peers, but somehow still seems hungry for more; his own chain of cafés, masterclasses for professionals… “apart from being a professional footballer or golfer, I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Daniel Fletcher’s pop up bakery Sweet. can be found at South Place Hotel every Saturday 10-4pm.

 
 

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