Excellence in Patisserie is on the Rise
Lounging on the sofa one Sunday morning with a trifle, a coffee and a copy of Claire’s first book Indulge, I began to read the foreword by the legendary Thomas Keller . . . the more I read, the more I panicked.
Claire’s astonishing career had been recognised by the Queen with an MBE in 2011; she was the first pastry chef to be awarded the MOGB, had worked at the finest hotels, restaurants and events, was an author, an international consultant . . . and it went on. For some considerable months, I had been plonking a plastic avatar of Claire into trifle and making light of a career with cheap sponge cake jokes – to say I was mortified was a total understatement.
Hyperventilating in panic, I texted Claire with the most genuine of apologies, attempting to get myself out of the hole I had been digging for some time! The response flashed back. Peeping through my fingers, too scared to look, I read: “What are you talking about Mrs??? I’m just me, I love a good laugh, even at myself . . .”
Once I had started breathing normally again, I realised that this was the very reason Claire is the nation’s favourite pastry chef. It’s not one thing, it’s because of the whole package. Her determination, passion and incredible achievements within her profession, alongside a warm, generous and encouraging personality . . . coupled with a cracking sense of humour. It didn’t matter to Claire that I didn’t know anything about her career, what mattered was a bit of down-to-earth fun and laughter – and my passion for eating cake.
It seems only fitting that Claire is about to launch the Claire Clark Academy, in Milton Keynes College. This is exactly what the industry needs right now: a centre of excellence that promotes, inspires and nurtures talent within the profession, bespoke courses that are tailored to enthuse, a hub where individuals can be celebrated as they flourish.
The support for the Claire Clark Academy has come streaming in from industry leaders in catering, hospitality, top chefs, restaurants, producers and manufacturers. An academy put in place to support an industry . . . in Claire’s words, it’s not her academy, it’s for the industry that has nurtured her and made her who she is.
The Claire Clark Academy will give opportunities to professional chefs to improve and develop their skills, with the nation’s top chocolatiers and patissiers pledging to teach courses and share their expertise. Masterclasses from the masters themselves, keeping everything fresh, sharing the crafts and techniques and building an ever-widening base of home-grown talent.
Fourteen aspiring pastry chefs will enrol on a two-year full time course at the Academy from September to gain the Claire Clark Diploma. The students will be immersed in an environment where leading industry specialists have sponsored state of the art facilities. These youngsters will also be given a work experience opportunity at Pretty Sweet, Claire’s high-end patisserie supply company in London. Claire’s company (with her business partner, Pastry Chef Sarah Crouchman) supplies the very best of venues, events and organisations with ‘on trend’ desserts, patisserie and bakery, always using the finest ingredients.
Claire’s encouragement of all things baking has led her to actively engage with #TwitterBakeAlong, a group of home bakers headed up by Baking Nanna and Rob, who set a baking challenge each week for the fun of it. Claire is always encouraging, supportive and celebrates a fine bake in the kitchen. To support the home baker, the Academy will host courses aimed to encourage, enthuse and develop skills so that fine patisserie becomes accessible to all and we can all master the Macaron, or Macaroon as Claire calls them.
I can’t wait to see this ground-breaking centre of excellence open next month, backed by the industry, for the industry. But more than that, I can’t wait to sample the delicious patisserie that will come from nurturing the next generation of patissiers. As self-nominated chief taster for the Claire Clark Academy . . . I have found that the proof of this is always in the pudding!!
If you want to get involved in this incredible collaboration with Milton Keynes College, follow @Claire_Clark on Twitter.
For all course information, please get in touch with Andrea Ruff firstname.lastname@example.org