Pastry Chef Paul Hayward is a world-renowned, award-winning pastry chef with thirty years’ experience, originally from England. Paul trained under French, German and Swiss pastry chefs and achieved the highest possible qualifications in his field. He has worked in top five star hotels and resorts in London, Florida, Bahamas and Dubai. Paul has now opened his open pastry consultancy, Ph by Design, and lives in Dubai where he applies his creative and diverse approach and unique style, combining classic combinations with modern twists in taste and presentation. His travels and vast culinary experience, including modernist cuisine, liquid nitrogen, themed cake sculpture, airbrushing, chocolate and sugar work, vegan, gluten-free and many dietary restrictions greatly influence his work. He enjoys a fun approach and original style to pastry, which is individually designed for his clients to suit any need. Paul has vast experience opening restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, franchises such as Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks and even a cooking school from conception to conception with a strong understanding of financial aspects, hygiene and current trends. His specialised services include demonstrations, training, workshops, master classes, consultations and custom design courses based on client needs.
What inspired you to become a pastry chef?
From a very young age, helping my grandmother bake made me happy.
You have been in the industry for quite some time. Would you have done anything differently when you started?
I started thirty years ago, back then nobody I knew was a chef, I had no idea how to be a chef, I just knew it was what I wanted to do. Even though a lot of people told me not to do it as overtime, weekend work, holidays, no routine, poor pay, but this was my passion and I knew it could help me travel and make all the places I had seen on TV accessible and also work and travel. Now, with the internet and social media, it’s much easier to find information. If I had to go back, there is not much I would change and everything that has happened has shaped me into the person I am today. When unpleasant things happen, they make you stronger, but you just don’t realise it at the time.
You’ve cooked in some really intimidating kitchens. Have you done anything to boost your confidence and make sure you always maintain the drive?
Confidence comes from knowing your job, and knowing your job takes time, practice and determination. Try to always work for people who have a good reputation and know their job, and who will teach you properly from the beginning and make sure you learn something new every day.
What is the latest trend in pastry?
Laminated doughs, brioche, croissants, Danish with variations of shapes, themes and flavours.
I think a lot of people focus on creating dishes that look amazing in photos and on social media rather than focusing on the actual taste, texture and presentation of the whole dish because a lot of photos I see look stunning, amazing photos but when you look closely you don’t want to eat them.
What is your style?
Traditional recipes and techniques, twisted to suit my customers’ needs, is the philosophy behind my baking style. A big part of my business, which I currently run in Dubai and the surrounding areas, is Middle Eastern flavours combined with comfort food and Western desserts. It could be a soufflé with sticky dates and salted caramel, or a cinnamon roll with cardamom and pistachios with rose icing, strawberry combined with rose water in profiteroles, but my main goal is to turn my customers’ dreams into reality, I thought while baking.
What is your favourite pastry or cake?
After tasting it all day every day, sometimes a pastry chef just wants simple things like lemon or marble cake or a freshly baked lemon cake.
What is your advice for aspiring pastry chefs?
Never give up, practise, practise and practise, study, because information is everywhere these days, but look for what you like and don’t like in the products, because that will help you create your own style instead of copying someone else.
What are your future plans as a pastry chef?
I would like to continue to help my clients, run more courses and eventually write a book or series of books, not only with recipes but how and why to change recipes, substitute ingredients and make your own creations on all aspects of pastry.
Would you consider yourself an artist?
Yes, I loved art at school and my teacher wanted me to go to art school, but as a chef I knew I could do both.
Do you draw inspiration from artists when creating your baked goods?
Yes, many years ago I studied modern art, which inspired me with designs for plated desserts.
When you create different products every day, where do you get your inspiration from?
From anything and everywhere, it could be an ingredient, a shape, the season we are in, the weather, events like Halloween, Easter or Ramadan, countries, cultures, I never run out of ideas and I don’t think I ever will.
The topic of local food, from smaller, specialised and personally known producers, is becoming increasingly important. What are some of your local partners from whom you source your products?
If you want to do the best, you have to use the best. Supporting local places where you live is important to support the economy, but also to increase freshness. Also, buying from specialists who have taken the time to make sure the product is the best, has unique characteristics, flavours and textures, and understanding how the ingredients are made and what they are made of helps you balance your recipes and make the right choices.
What do you think is the most important/ winning feature of your creations as a pastry chef?
Originality created for an event, location, taste, texture and price point are the defining characteristics of my creations.
What are the most important considerations when creating your menu?
Understanding your clients’ needs, skill, kitchen and equipment, ingredients, type of food and food costs are all important considerations when creating my menus.
Have you ever thought of becoming a vegan chef?
I do what is needed and what is trending in the market and have actually spent a few years working with vegan desserts, understanding what is needed and how to overcome not using basic ingredients like eggs, milk and cream that we take advantage of and have run courses on the subject and opened a healthy themed café in Dubai where 80% of the menu is vegan.
How can restaurants/hotels/chefs communicate the innovative, sustainable plant-based food/ food chain approach to others?
Undoubtedly social media can improve communication, hotels and restaurants can highlight this aspect on their menus and serving boards when selling at the tables.
Have you ever worked with meat substitutes? If so, what are the advantages and disadvantages?
My wife is a vegetarian, so we use a lot of substitutes and to be honest, sometimes the textures are as important as the taste. For example, I love Thai curry, which is usually made with beef with big chunks of sweet potato, so sometimes we just leave out the meat or create some recipes with soaked cashews, which have the same texture as chicken.
Recruiting and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges in any industry, but especially in the hospitality industry. How do you talk to your staff about career growth and advancement?
Now I’m a team of one, but I’ve had teams of 150 in the past, and the key is to treat them like family, because most of the time we spend more time together than our actual families. This means loving and appreciating them when they do a good job, and not hesitating to point out when they don’t do so well, but with constructive criticism. It is important to explain to them what they have done wrong and how, and to give them instructions on how to fix it and improve. It is important to promote people from within your own team wherever possible, and if you hire people from outside, it is best if they are people who add value and fit into your team. I also always try to hire mixed nationalities from as many backgrounds as possible, which not only helps in preparing different food, but helps us all grow and learn from each other’s culture.
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