Jamie Houghton, Pastry Chef, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

The Staff Canteen

Jamie Houghton is a pastry chef at Raymond Blanc’s acclaimed two Michelin starred restaurant, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire.

In October 2017 Jamie fought off stiff competition from eight other competitors to win the 2017 UK Pastry Open for his flight themed sugar sculpture resembling a red biplane with moving propeller. With his triumph, Jamie now automatically goes through to represent the UK at the 30th World Pastry Cup in Lyon in 2019 alongside three other pastry chefs who will compete against 22 other countries to win the prestigious pastry competition.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Jamie about representing the UK at the 30th World Pastry Cup, why he believes in experiencing all areas of the kitchen before settling on one section and what areas of pastry he is most excited to learn more about.

Jamie Houghton
Jamie Houghton

Congratulations on winning the UK Pastry Open 2017! How did it feel when they called your name?

It was a surreal feeling. Since 2013 when I helped out the UK pasty team for the World Cup, I wanted to take part in the UK Pastry Open and now it has happened. After winning Best taste and Best sugar, I didn't think that I would win the overall, so when they called my name I was extremely happy and overwhelmed.

Were you feeling the pressure on the day? Is there anything you wish you could have done better or didn’t go to plan?

The pressure of a live competition will always be high, since many people are watching what you are doing. The run itself was very tightly timed, I didn't have much leeway to do things again if they went wrong. With the pressure and adrenaline of the day I really struggled to blow the main body of the plane, which put me behind schedule. After that I was playing catch up which made the rest of the build not as great as I would have liked it, but these things happen. You just have to be sure that you have done as much training as possible to be ready on the day.

When do preparations begin to represent the UK at the 30th World Pastry Cup in Lyon in 2019?

We already have some good ideas, but we have a long journey ahead of us so the earlier we start the better. We will have to go through a lot of trials and errors before reaching the level where we want to be!

What prompted your decision to enter the UK Pastry Open in the first place?

In 2013 I was a mentee for the UK Pastry Team, and when I saw what they were creating with sugar or chocolate, I decided I wanted to be part of it. But none of this would have been possible without the help of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and Benoît Blin, my head chef. He started training me years ago and taught me the skills required for the UK Pastry Open.

Info Bar

Signature dishes

Plated dessert: Apple, caramel dessert with a ginger pannacotta

Chocolate cake: Construction of sesame, marmalade and coffee

Desert island desserts

Gingerbread men- used to make them with mum when was younger

Millionaire shortbread- Bakers oven childhood favourite

A massive bowl of ice cream- who wouldn't!

Crème caramel- the dessert I always have when I am on holiday in France

Would you recommend more pastry chefs to enter competitions?

Definitely! I think that competitions are a good way to develop your own skill level and give pastry a better visibility to the public.

Have you always been a pastry chef or have you covered other areas of the kitchen?

When I started in catering I was working in the kitchen. I only ever did the basics on larder and worked in other sections just to learn, but then I got a chance to move into the pastry section. I still do cooking at home so I haven’t forgotten what I have learnt!

What attracted you to a career in pastry?

I always had a “sweet tooth”, even when I was at college. I started in the main kitchen but always felt that I could be a lot more creative if I went into pastry.

Would you advise young chefs to choose earlier to specialise or experience all aspects of the kitchen then choose?

I think it is important to have different experiences before choosing what is right for you.

Where do you find the inspiration for your creations?

It is a long process, which starts with defining the idea and working on it until I am satisfied with the results. In pastry competitions you have to follow a certain criteria, such as a height restriction or having to include elements like a flower or a ribbon. These requirements help me create my vision of the piece.

Chocolate and sugar sculpture%2C UK Pastry Open.JPG

Chocolate and sugar sculpture

UK Pastry Open

What is it like working with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir?

Working at Belmond Le Manoir along Raymond Blanc, Benoît Blin and Gary Jones is a real honour, on a professional and a personal level. They teach us how to be great at our job and always give the best. Working for Belmond Le Manoir is truly amazing, they support us in our development and will always go the extra mile if dedication is shown. Raymond Blanc's vision was for this place to be a learning environment as well as a high standard kitchen. He has taught to some of the best chefs in the UK industry over 34 years.

Does he have much involvement in the pastry section?

Of course, and you will always see him walking around in the kitchen tasting dishes and giving advice to the chefs!

Are there any areas of pastry you would like to learn more about?

A great thing about working at Belmond Le Manoir is that in the pastry section we make everything that is served. From the bread, viennoiseries, petit fours, ice cream and all plated elements. This means that we do have a great variation on what we learn. I am yet to learn how to make the bread and the veinnoiseries so I am looking forward to that.

*A question from our sponsors Callebaut:

With Christmas almost upon us, is there anything special you add to your pastry menu to celebrate?

We are working on a coffee panna cotta scented with orange and a rich almond praline and the rest is a surprise for our guests...

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th December 2017

Jamie Houghton, Pastry Chef, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons