Chef with a passion for French patisserie

Teneshia Naidoo | 07 November, 2010 00:00

Pastry chef Kirti Kamal, 23, has a flare for all things culinary. Kamal, a graduate of the prestigious Christina Martin Culinary School with a diploma in culinary arts and French patisserie, was one of the four finalists in the Sunday Times Young Chef of the Year competition in 2008. She now has her own business, Boutique Boulangerie, where she makes decadent gourmet and wedding cakes, chocolates, artisan breads, tarts, macaroons, desserts and French patisserie. She has a stall at the Essenwood Market in Durban where she sells pastries and savoury dishes. Kamal spoke to Teneshia Naidoo about her love for pastries and her dream of one day opening a bistro.

When did your love for cooking and baking start?

It started when I was five. I come from a family where women are great cooks. From a young age, I have been exposed to all different types of cuisine and from there the whole artist culinary aspect came in from watching all the BBC chefs. They have left such a mark on us.

Why did you decide to do this professionally?

Initially I didn't want to do it professionally. I was studying towards my degree in anthropology and art history. But I always had a love for it and was told that I had a flare for it. My parents were cool about it and they told me to go ahead.

What is it about baking that you love?

I just love the touch and feel that you get from it. I love the tranquility involved in it. You have to be calm. There is patience involved and it's such a stress reliever, even if it's just a simple loaf of bread that comes out of the oven. Getting in touch with the dough and kneading it and then the aroma that fills the kitchen and that sense of nostalgia that I get. It's just the simplicity of baking that I love.

What was the first thing that you made?

When I was nine, I baked a chocolate cake for my teacher because it was her birthday.

How would you define French patisserie?

It's old techniques and methods from French cuisine that has been adapted and modernised. A classic example would be a frangipani pear tart or galette (type of round crusty cake).

What are your three favourite pastries to bake?

  • Éclairs.
  • Fresh strawberry gateaux.
  • Sache Torte a Viennese sponge layered with syrup, jam or French butter cream and a glossy chocolate ganache (filling for pastries made from chocolate and cream).

Which three chefs do you admire?

  • James Martin - I have watched him from a young age and I learnt to make a classic strawberry gateaux from him.
  • Michel Roux Jr - a three-star Michelin chef.
  • Nigella Lawson - For her natural style and her flamboyance and she just makes everything so good.

What Indian cuisine do you enjoy cooking?

Paneer. I prepared it in a more modernised way. I do these paneer skewers that are marinated. It has a chilli, coriander and pesto sauce that you dip in it. So it's classical but also modernised.

What is your favourite ingredient?

A good quality Belgian chocolate.

Complete the sentence: Chocolate is ...

... the best pick-me-up and mood enhancer.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I'm in the process of opening up my own bistro next year. The ultimate goal is to open a little rustic cafe bistro which will serve light meals and French patisserie.

From Left to right: Chef Sean Webber, Kirti, Vishal, Russell & Philip Mostert

The JCC competition took place at the Unilever Foodsolutions Head office, Umhlanga, Durban on Wednesday 14 March 2012.

The competitors were:
Russell Watt – Oysterbox Hotel
Kirti Kamal – Oyster Box Hotel
Vishal Mungar – Oyster Box Hotel
Justin Reid - Elangeni
Kaylyn Cobb - Elangeni

The contestants arrived at 7:00am and then a quick brief from the convener of Judges and committee members as well as Mervyn Davis our kitchen judge for the morning.

Good luck was conveyed to the competitors. The first competitor started menu writing at 8:30am and began cooking at 9:00am.

9 students and Chef Karen Henwood from Ikusasa School of Cooking were the assistance for the day in the kitchen. These students were able to observe new methods and exiting ideas, they were all extremely excited to have been part of this prestigious event.

The judges for the day were:
Gunther Beissel – Farm to Fork
Shaun Smith – Fusion World Food Cafe
Caryn England – Audacia Manor
Casey Bumpsteed – Fedics Foodservices
Wynand Schoeman - Sjef
Des Davies – ICC Durban

Kitchen judge: Mervyn Davis – Sublime catering

Judging was done in the room adjacent to the kitchen and went off without a hitch.
The last contestant completed cooking at 12:30pm. Mervyn Davis did an excellent job with the kitchen judging.

The feed back session was in-depth and very informative; the contestants felt that they had received valuable information back from the judges and that they learned a few lessons from the “constructive criticism”.

Overall the standard was fairly average when compared to previous competitions but I feel that we have a great option for a national winner from KZN this year.

The consolidation of points was done before leaving the premises and were audited by Philip Mostert.

The prize giving was held directly after the competition in the judging area.

The positions were as follows:

1st: Russell Watt – Oysterbox Hotel
2nd: Vishal Mungar – Oyster Box Hotel
3rd: Kirti Kamal – Oyster Box Hotel

Overall, I believe the day went superbly well with no glitches.

The contestants felt that they learned from the process and the judge’s feedback was excellent.


Taste Magazine Jan/Feb issue 2015

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