Across my Table
I love the fact that Bangalore is increasingly on the international radar of the culinary world. People we have often followed on TV and social media are constantly visiting the city on promotions and to showcase their skills as well. Interacting with them brings out a whole new perspective of understanding of food on the international spectrum. Recently in the city was dessert maestro Janice Wong. She was in town to promote the launch of Magnum's 4th variant the Choco Cappucino. Who better than Janice for this promotion, who in her own words during a telephonic interview said to me, "Chocolate is one of the sexiest ingredients to work with and it is so versatile."
Chef Janice Wong is the brilliance that is behind Singapore dessert-centric restaurant 2am:dessertbar. Always wanting to bring desserts to the forefront, Janice's work has definitely trained the spotlight on what is often the last part of the meal. I spent a good deal of time chatting with Janice when she visited Bangalore. Here is what she had to say:
From caviar topped chocolate to bamboo shoot inspired candy and wearable edible art - your creations seem to breach new heights - what is your process of ideation and your inspiration?
Janice: I am more organic. I don’t have one process of ideation. So if I am in your city, I will try and immerse myself in the local culture, ask as many questions as I can about the food you eat and much more. I get very inspired with all the chatting and the truth is that there are different cultures to adapt to and experience and that is one of the many ways in which I get my inspiration.
What is it about desserts that keeps you motivated to try new things?
Janice: I always feel desserts are under-rated. There is so much of hype about the culinary scene and about all the top male chefs – about greats like Chef René and Chef Ferran Adrià. There are no celebrated pastry chefs. Sure there are those in hotels and restaurants that make nice cakes, but they are never really out there and in the open. Today, there is a change in this perception. Progressive desserts were not really around 8 to 10 years ago. 8 years ago nobody knew of plated desserts. It was just cake on the side with a scoop of ice cream. There were no dessert restaurants around. Today, things are changing dramatically and that's motivation enough to try new things.
The creation of new desserts is about pairing unimaginable ingredients - what have been some of your unique such combinations.
Janice: In one of my creations, I used fish bone. I took a piece of fish, cleaned out all the meat, grilled it, put it into the oven and dried it. I then dipped the fish bone in white chocolate and paired it with peanut and chocolate mousse. This was launched in Tokyo and went really well.
You have a few personal ways in which you look for inspiration - remaining blindfolded for a while is one of them - are there any others? How has it helped.
Janice: When I blind folded myself the idea was to accentuate my five senses. But what actually happened was that I pushed my imagination. When you close your eyes, you create your world in your head. You start to think, if the entire world was black and white, how would I see at it. When you are imagining you are creating and when you are creating you are telling your own stories. This is like God’s gift. You have no one stopping you from doing it. It’s free.
What are some of the trends coming about in plated desserts internationally?
Janice: Desserts are getting very colourful with a lot of strong notes in it. A lot of flowers seem to be making an appearance. A lot of people are creating on the side of the plate instead of the middle. A trend that is also picking up is creating your own serve-ware. I just launched a set of 25 plates in Indonesia, each one for a dessert and though this can turn out to be an expensive affair, I guess the new trend will be to create your own stuff.
How do you ensure that the vision you have for a dessert actually translates to appreciation from the diner?
Janice: When you create something, it has to please you first before it goes out to the diner. You cannot be selfish. I am always creating for the customer and each one has their own palate. You cannot satisfy them 100% all the time, but they will be able to see sincerity on the plate. When you tell them about the dessert, they can see a lot of character and meticulousness has gone into the dish. They can see the textures of the dish and that there is a surprise element in the dish. When you tell the story about the dish, the diners are immediately touched by it and want to know and discover more.