Saved by the Cake!
A conversation with the artist behind Sweet Artist Academy
You’ve watched countless baking videos on Tasty. You get excited by the delicious aroma of freshly baked pastries wafting from the oven. You’re inspired to whip up something yourself, after years of sampling desserts from birthdays and tea parties. It’s time to take the next step; but the next step is what?
Patrick Vuaillat of Sweet Artist Academy in Perth certainly knows his way around a bag of flour. And it’s no surprise: He’s been stretching dough and folding batter since his early boyhood days in France. So take it from him to learn how to create the perfect crispy pie crust or an immaculate French macaron. Their classes at Sweet Artist Academy are designed for the novice baker - all you really need is the enthusiasm to learn - and baking can be as easy as pie. wink
In this post is a little peek into Patrick’s journey into pastry cooking, his favourite tools and techniques, and what’s in his fridge.
Please tell us something about yourself. Have you always been passionate about pastry cooking?
I’d like to think I was born a pastry chef. I always loved eating sweets since a very young age. I made my first pocket money business at the age of eleven, taking orders weekly from the neighbours to bake simple dishes like pound cakes or apple and apricot pie. I was obsessed with sweets but couldn’t afford to buy them, and making them was and still is the only solution!
I have been in the pastry trade for 41 years and can’t think of anything else I would love to do. This has always been a passion of mine, from my humble beginnings in France learning everything about this beautiful trade, to teaching and transferring my passion to the broader public. It gave me the chance to travel the world. I love every aspect of it!
Did you have any mentors along the way?
I never had a mentor. I don’t really believe that one person can make what you are. Instead, I worked with numerous talented pastry chefs who were kind and generous to pass on to me some of their skills and recipes. All I know was taught by others, and I now feel obligated to pay back and share my skills, as well.
Tell us the story behind Sweet Artist Academy. When and why did you start your patisserie school?
I owned a pastry shop for 12 years in Perth and it became a very popular small business. The front and kitchen team were just sensational. We won the Best Small Bakery Award in Australia in 2010 and the following year we won the award for Best Business Person of Australia. But when you run a business, it is also very important to know when to slow down. Five years ago, I knew that the time was right for a change and I did exactly that.
I always loved passing on my trade and always employed apprentices, some of whom are now doing very well on their own. Teaching then seemed the obvious next step for me. I started Sweet Artist Academy four years ago, and it has now become a well-attended establishment. I teach the way I want to learn, and unlike some other schools, we don’t do job sharing. You get your own table and equipment, and everyone makes pastries and cakes, from start to finish. I don’t believe that you can learn as much if you only do half the job.
What sets your school apart from others?
Our classes are very busy. They’re not hobby classes, but a place where you will truly learn and master every task at hand, in a very relaxing and enjoyable environment. The bonus after each class is that you will be guaranteed a good night sleep after a fulfilling day!
Could you tell us what classes are the most popular?
All the classes that we offer are very popular, though we do ask our audience what they would love to learn and design our sessions around those choices. I have the luxury of having many contacts in France that keep me up to date with what’s relevant in today’s market, which is why we improve or change the classes every four months.
The action centre: everyone gets their own table and set of equipment
Do you have a favourite recipe? Something you find yourself making over and over again?
I love every aspect of the trade and don’t have one single recipe that I like to make all the time. As long has it has sugar, vanilla, and butter in it, I know I will love it. However, my preferred cake is the traditional German Black Forest, with a very moist chocolate sponge soaked with kirsch, layered with chocolate mousse and Chantilly cream then filled with a generous amount of sour stewed cherries. One of the best and balanced cakes there is, and one that has passed the test of time.
What’s the one tool in your kitchen you can’t live without?
The one tool I can’t live without is my long chef knife: a 40 cm serrated blade forged in Japan. I use it for everything: cutting, masking cakes, scrapping, and sometimes even as a screw driver!
What is one of your favorite stress-free techniques to share with readers?
When you decide to bake, make sure that you will have plenty of time ahead to create your masterpiece. Don’t start if you know that halfway through you will need to pick up the kids or someone will be visiting you. Immerse yourself completely and escape into this wonderful sweet world! Switch your phone off and let all your senses guide you through the baking process. If you can do that, I can guarantee that your baked creation will be truly appreciated by your family or friends, and your reward will be a great sense of achievement.
For the baking novices, what’s your advice on getting started?
You never baked, but you’d like to have a go for it? Then, go for it! First, the sweeter your tooth the better!
But don’t start by looking at hundreds of recipes on YouTube; this channel is for entertainment only, it’s not a learning tool. The more videos you watch, the more confused you will get. Invest in a few good basic cooking books (preferably written by pastry chefs), and attend a few baking classes. You will save a lot of time and money by not spoiling your recipes and learning what to do directly from the experts.
Let’s end with a fun question: What is in your refrigerator?
In my fridge at work, I have my precious fresh vanilla beans from Mauritius. A lot of unsalted butter and cream, as French cooking will oblige. And if you sneak behind the cream cheese, you will find my secret stash of TimTams. Also hiding behind the frozen egg whites is my tub of Cafe Grande ice cream. Those are hidden as those are the only two things I can’t share!
Happy baking to you all and all the best in your sweet adventures!
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