Pastry chef at the Mansion on Turtle Creek (Dallas, US)
Raised in Toulouse, France, Nicolas Blouin began working at a bakery when he was 15. He continued his training at the Pastry School of Muret, completing apprenticeships in pastry and chocolate confections. Blouin moved to America to work at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort with Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard. Eager to expand his knowledge, Blouin returned to Europe and worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Switzerland and France.
In 2006, Blouin was ready to return to the States and took a position at the Bellagio in Las Vegas under Chef Jean Philippe Maury. He later oversaw two locations of the Jean Philippe Pâtisserie at the Aria Resort & Casino. With his combination of European and American experiences and a passion for simple, strong, classic flavors, Blouin’s next move was to the historic Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. There, Blouin composes invitingly bold, whimsical, and colorful desserts that may not be recognizable at first sight, but are instantly familiar at first taste. In 2015, Blouin won the Valrhona C³ Pastry Competition at the 10th Annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress and will represent North America this year at the international finale of C³.
INTERVIEW WITH NICOLAS BLOUIN
VALRHONA: Tell us about your pastry style? Who or what are your biggest influences?
Often my style incorporates re-interpreting traditional classics in a modern, unexpected manner. I enjoy creating structured desserts with flavors that are developed to complement each other. For example, my cheesecake is one of our signature desserts at The Mansion Restaurant, and it is encapsulated by a chocolate sphere, allowing guests to experience all the flavors in one bite. I follow pastry trends from France for creative, cutting edge developments.
VALRHONA: What’s your favorite dessert that you’ve ever made?
The Illanka Stratosphere. It is a beautiful, technical dessert. The outer layer is a very thin clear sphere crafted out of sugar. The sphere is filled with a product that contains moisture and you don’t want the sugar to melt, so it’s very difficult to execute – especially when you are making several at one time. It is like a small sculpture.
VALRHONA: What was your first job in pastry?
My first pastry job was in my hometown of Toulouse, France. I worked at a small patisserie and boulangerie with very, very high quality and standards. I loved it. I was lucky to be exposed to pastry and bread making and learned a tremendous amount, providing a solid foundation for my career.
VALRHONA: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
Chef Claude Escamilla. I had the privilege to work with him when I first arrived at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and later followed him to Jean-Philippe Patisserie at Aria. Chef Escamilla took me under his wing and taught me how to channel my technical culinary knowledge into amazing pastries and desserts. He is an exceptional leader and he taught me how to inspire a team. I learned how to communicate a creative vision to a pastry team, for which I am also grateful.
VALRHONA: What is your planned training regimen for the competition?
First I develop the concepts of the desserts – flavor profiles, components, a sketch of the final desserts and the exact recipes. Next, I develop a strategic work plan with a highly detailed timeline. As preparation, I execute the complete work plan at least three times to practice.
VALRHONA: What’s your most important kitchen rule?
My number one rule is never cut the quality of the product. I believe it is essential to maintain the highest quality ingredients. High-end ingredients are often the first to be eliminated when it comes to cost management, but it is these exceptional ingredients that truly differentiate your cuisine.
VALRHONA: How do you feel about representing your country at the International Finale of the Valrhona C3?
I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to represent the United States at the International Finale of the Valrhona C3. I am very grateful to be able to compete alongside such incredibly talented pastry chefs from all over the world.
VALRHONA: Why do you think you are the potential winner?
All of the Valrhona C3 competitors are exceptionally talented and qualified; to become a finalist is a huge honor in itself! I suppose I am fortunate to have the “home team advantage” if you will, as the competition takes place in the United States and I have competed in New York City before.
VALRHONA: How does the theme (the 30 years of Guanaja 70%) inspire you?
I am very excited about the theme! Guanaja is a special chocolate I have used throughout my career. I have created many desserts with Guanaja as the focal ingredient.
VALRHONA: What is your favorite quote you will try to keep in mind for the competition ?
The harder you work to achieve a goal, the greater it will feel when you finally achieve it.
VALRHONA: What would it mean to you to win the competition ?
Winning the competition would be the greatest professional honor I have experienced. I recently have officially applied to formally become a United States citizen, which would make winning even more special!