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Introducing C3 contestant Kanako Baba

On October 22, 2018, Valrhona was home to 8 of the world's top Pastry Chefs as Valrhona’s C3 (Chocolate Chef Competition) Final culminated. Curious to know more about these elite pastry chefs? We have asked them a few questions about their passion and their preparations. The second contestant we would like to introduce is Kanako Baba.

INTRODUCING C3 CONTESTANT KANAKO BABA

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BIO

While studying at College NKS in Tokyo, Japan, Chef Kanako Baba started with Japanese confectioneries, then she turned to basic bread making and eventually started learning European pastry. Thanks to many classes, different chefs served as role models for different techniques that she acquired. In particular a French chef caught her attention and gave her the desire to learn and work in France.

That is when Chef Baba became Chef of Pastry at Patisserie et Gourmandises for Stephane Glacier in Colombes, France. She had the chance to strengthen her knowledge of pastry and learn even more. Thanks to French Pastry she realized how it changes from each season and the different flavors it offers, from the chocolates of Easter, the ice creams and sorbets of summer to the Christmas cakes.

Eager to learn more, she then worked at Restaurant Aromatick in Paris, France. It was at that time that she started creating her own recipes. In 2015, she got the opportunity to discover another culture by working at Royal Connoisseur Café, in Dubai.

After mastering the art of French Pastry and Dessert, Chef Kanano Baba still wants to learn more. She now loves to work with Japanese ingredients to make healthy sweets and discover new tastes for her guests. Her goal is to discover traditional and new dishes all over the world to find the best match with the Japanese taste. Chef Baba now works at NOBU Atlantis the Palm in Dubai.

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DESSERTS DESCRIPTION

Petit Four: Sansho is a Japanese spice. Usually we use it for cooking. But when I was a commis, my chef made a brownie with sansho. I was surprise that sansho could be a good combination with chocolate. I still can't forget it and it’s given me a very strong impression. But with KOKORO, sansho is not usual for the guest, I arranged it with lime, cinnamon and other popular ingredients.

Plated Dessert: I like to use Japanese ingredients in desserts. But sometimes it's difficult to try for the guests from another country, because it's not a usual taste. I'm always thinking for the guest how they can challenge our Japanese flavors and how they will like and have a fun with these flavors. Shiso is a kind of leaf in Japan. I wanted to recommend to you this ingredient. I think apricot and shiso are a good combination. Sometimes the guest wants something not too sweet or heavy for dessert, so I decided to create an ice cream cake to have a light dessert.

Q&A

Valrhona: Could you please introduce yourself in a few words (name, age, title) and tell us a bit about your career as a pastry chef?
Kanako Baba: My name is Kanako Baba, I am Japanese and 32 years old. I started my career as a sales assistant in a pastry shop. Then I worked as an assistant at a pastry school in Tokyo. After that, I went to France to learn about French pastry. I worked with Chef Stéphane Glacier (M.O.F) as Commis de Pâtisserie. Here I learned a lot about both the basics and the new modern techniques. I love to travel and to learn about different pastry cultures, so I decided to come to the UAE.

Valrhona: Where do you work? Which establishment, in which city?
Kanako Baba: I am the Pastry Chef of Nobu at Atlantis the Palm in Dubai, UAE

Valrhona: Which great chefs have you worked with? Are there any you would particularly like to work with?
Kanako Baba: 2 chefs; Chef Stéphane Glacier (M.O.F). He taught me all the basics of being a Pastry Chef. Chef Hervé Courtot, he is the Corporate Chef at Nobu, but from him I learned how to work in a restaurant and how to enrich the guest’s experience. They are so tough and both love their job. I will never forget the way these 2 chefs work.

Valrhona: Have you ever participated in a competition before? If so, which one?
Kanako Baba: Junior skills Olympics in Japan. I got first place when I was 23 years old. I did a sugar piece, chocolate entremets and figuring. It took 8 hours. Competitions always make me tough.

Valrhona: How did you find out about the C3 competition? What does the C3 competition mean to you?
Kanako Baba: From a friend of a pastry chef who already participated. C3 is the place to discover the possibilities of chocolate. I learned a lot of things from this competition.

Valrhona: How would you describe your signature style as a pastry chef?
Kanako Baba: Classic and simple. But I often add a little special arrangement so that guests can discover new tastes and have fun with my desserts.

Valrhona: What sort of person are you?
Kanako Baba: Quiet and shy, but I have a huge love of chocolate! Love to eat, love to create!

Valrhona: How have you been preparing for the C3 competition and for how long?
Kanako Baba: 6 months of practice. I have put all my experience of pastry in C3.

Valrhona: Can you tell us the secret to your chocolate blend?
Kanako Baba: ILLANKA 63%. It’s fruity and has a deep fragrance. Very elegant, and it really complements the other ingredients on the plate.

Valrhona: What inspires you?
Kanako Baba: My travels. When I travel I can discover a lot of different types of food and pastry. The different dishes always surprise and inspire me.

Valrhona: What is your favorite ingredient to work with?
Kanako Baba: 2 things; Ingredients that have fragrance and flavor. Like lemon peel or cinnamon liqueur for example. They have the possibility to give an impression on the plate. Chocolates, I always put a small amount in a dessert even if it is not a chocolate dessert. It mellows the taste and texture of the dessert. Usually chocolate is the main ingredient, but sometimes it is my secret ingredient of the dessert.

STARCHEFS QUESTIONS

StarChefs: If you could visit any chocolate origin, where would it be and why?
Kanako Baba: Peru. The chocolate from Peru is my favorite. Because it has strong cacao flavor, fruity and mild. Our owner, chef Nobu, started his cuisine style in Peru. Restaurant Nobu has many dishes with a taste of Peruvian cuisine. It has spicy and strong flavors, but I believe that chocolate from Peru also has enough strong flavor for giving an impression in the dessert after these dishes. If I have a chance to visit Peru, I want to know about the history of Chocolate in Peru and the process of making chocolate from beans. I also want to know the reason why the chocolate from Peru is so powerful.

StarChefs: Who is your mentor, and what's the most important lesson he/she taught you?
Kanako Baba: Stéphane Glacier. He has such a love for pastry. His pastry is simple and classic, but there is a lot of passion and respect. And he always thinks about how the customer will like his pastry. My basic skills were learned from him, and also I learned how to make pastry with heart. 

StarChefs: What's the first truly delicious pastry you remember eating? Where were you?
Kanako Baba: Merveille. When I visited Paris, I don’t remember the name of shop. But it was small pastry shop. I was shocked that there is still just simple classic cake in Paris. It was not a beautiful shape, it was just chocolate flakes for garnish. But I tried it by curiosity. It was just simple, only meringue and chocolate cream. But the texture of the chocolate cream, how smooth it was. And meringue had good moisture,crunch. These made for a good combination in the cake. I felt that this is the power of traditional cakes, it has only 2 layers, but still has enough power to enrich and make an impression on me. Of course layers and visuals are important, but that’s not for all cakes. Now my favorite cake is Merveille, I’m sure that when I open my own shop, it will be one of my signature cakes. 

StarChefs: Who is the the unsung hero of your pastry department? What is his/her title, and why is he/she so valuable?
Kanako Baba: Actually, we have a lot of passionate staff. But if I need to choose form one of them, I want to say Sarita Somahang. She has learned just 1 year of pastry, but she is organized well and clean. The best thing is she always thinks about the reason for each process when she makes pastry. I feel that she enjoys making cakes and also enjoys learning about pastry. She is improving quickly and I believe that she will be a good chef very soon and help our team make guests happy.  

StarChefs: If you were a flavor, what would you be and why?
Kanako Baba: Yuzu. Yuzu a citrus fruit and one of the symbolic fruits of Japan. It has elegant flavor in juice and a fresh smell in the peel. I like citrus flavors because it can match with a lot of ingredients. Of course with chocolates, but also other sweet fruits and spices. I believe that yuzu can enrich people and can give a different experience from other citrus fruits. If I need to choose one flavor, I want to be a Yuzu. 

Kanako Baba's Instagram account

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