Earlier this month I had the amazing opportunity to travel all the way to Kiev, Ukraine to attend a six-day masterclass given by the incredible Antonio Bachour at the Hector J. Bravo Culinary and pastry Arts Academy. The masterclass was divided into two parts: the first three days were a demonstration where he showed us how to make all the desserts he was presenting, and the second three days was a practical workshop in which we were able to make the desserts ourselves.
Upon arriving in Kiev, I got to my hotel and immediately went out exploring. Kiev is a very beautiful city that is steeped in history. I visited the most beautiful Cathedrals dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries, walked through the pretty cobbled streets and enjoyed a traditional Ukrainian meal where ordered borscht and, of course, Chicken Kiev!
The next day was the start of the class. Antonio Bachour has been my favourite chef and biggest inspiration since I started studying, so attending this masterclass was an absolute dream come true. His passion and attention to detail truly sets him apart from other pastry chefs – this is something which can be seen in his every dessert and is a true testament as to why he is so successful.
The class covered a number of entremets, petit gateau’s and his famous chocolate bonbons. During the demonstration class, he showed us how everything is made and imparted on us a wealth of knowledge including different chocolate techniques, the applications of different types of sugars, and various other tips and tricks that makes life as a pastry chef so much easier! Although he was doing everything whilst we were simply observing, it was still such a great interactive experience because we got to taste all the leftover pieces from the desserts he was constructing. One of my favourite things to taste was the banana sponge which forms the base of the Caribbean entremet – a big surprise for me, as usually I cannot stand banana!
More highlights from the demonstration class included learning how to perfectly glaze all the petit gateau’s and entremets, using the glossiest mirror glaze I’ve ever seen; making the legendary bonbons and using coloured cocoa butter to create beautiful designs on them with both paintbrushes and an airbrush gun, as well as learning how to make the delicate chocolate garnishes that adorn the top of all his desserts. The class ended with a buffet of all the desserts that had been made over the last three days and it was the most beautiful display of desserts I have ever seen! We were then presented with a certificate and were free to sample the delicious pastries.
Between the demonstration class and the practical class, I had a day where I was free to explore. I decided to go on a tour of Chernobyl and the ghost town of Pripyat. This is the site of the largest manmade disaster in History, where one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power stations exploded – resulting in a massive nuclear fallout. Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated and leave their homes and all their belongings behind, never to return. To get into Chernobyl and then Pripyat you must go through a number of security checks. The further in you go, the higher the level of radiation climbs. The levels of radiation near the power station are so high, that you are not permitted to spend more than ten minutes there, and you aren’t allowed to spend more than two hours in the town of Pripyat. The whole area is incredibly eerie, haunting, peaceful and downright scary all in one. Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience and I’m so happy that I got to do it.
It was now time for the practical class. We were split up into four groups of four, based on our level of experience and each group was given certain desserts to prepare. My group was in charge of making the pina colada petit gateau, the caramel and strawberry entremet and the bonbons. It was so exciting and such fun being able to create these desserts. Chef Bachour was on hand to offer advice and assistance where needed. We started by making all the sponges, jellies and mousses so that they could be frozen before construction. We then constructed all the entremets, made sable dough for the tarts and went home for the evening. The next day was devoted to making the bonbons and all the chocolate garnishes, which was again a massive highlight for me! It was so exciting to be able to put into practice everything we learned in the previous class and to watch it all come out perfectly.
The last day was dedicated to glazing and garnishing everything and setting up our dessert buffet. I was in total disbelief as to how amazing everything looked knowing that we had done it all mostly by ourselves! What an incredible feeling. We were presented with another experience and finished off with another dessert tasting as well as the bittersweet feeling of the experience coming to an end, but being so excited to get home and practice everything I had learned.
It truly was the most enriching, exciting and wonderful experience of my life. I cannot put into words how much I learned, how it has changed my perspective on pastry and how I am more in love with desserts than ever before. Having the opportunity to travel to an enchanting city like Kiev, as well as meeting Antonio Bachour and learning from him was an out of this world experience and something I will cherish for many many years to come.
Guest post by Cayley Slater – follow her on Instagram!
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