Chef of the Week: Nicolas Lambert, Executive Pastry Chef at Four Seasons, St. Petersburg
Nicolas has pastry in his blood as his family owns a bakery in northeastern France. It is there where Nicolas started to learn the ins and outs of the trade from a very early age, before getting his degree as a chocolatier.
He worked in France in his early career, winning many awards, before moving to Hong Kong, where he worked at the two Michelin-starred Caprice restaurant.
Just one year later he was awarded the accolade of Best Pastry Chef in Hong Kong and Macau. In 2018, after celebrating his 30th birthday, Nicolas became Asia’s Best Pastry Chef according to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
1. What made you decide to become a chef?
My papa, because I was born in my parents bakery.
2. Where did you train to cook?
From 10 years old with my dad after school in the evening.
3. Tell us about your work at Four Seasons St. Petersburg.
I am Executive Pastry Chef of the hotel, which contains 220 rooms. We also have 3 restaurants and a bar with a team of 12 people.
4. Before coming to St. Petersburg, you worked at Caprice in Hong Kong. What was the pressure to perform like in the two Michelin-star restaurant?
Yes, actually it is an everyday pressure. Everyday you fight so as not to lose a star but also to win one. It was a pleasure for me to spend these years in a great restaurant like Caprice.
5. Why did you choose to move from Hong Kong to St. Petersburg?
A great professional opportunity, to be able to grow and retouch in all areas (tea time, amenities, bakery, etc.).
6. How is the food culture in St. Petersburg different from that in Hong Kong?
St. Petersburg resembles much more a great European capital on a culinary level. People prefer more sweet than in Asia.
7. Do you have a signature dish or a favorite dish that you love to cook?
I love Paris Brest in winter and the Fraisier in summer.
8. What’s your favorite ingredient to work with?
I would say lime: I use it like the cook uses his pepper.
9. Where do you find inspiration?
All around me. For example, in nature, the city, a museum etc.
10. What do few people know about you?
That I have a twin brother and that I do paragliding.
11.What is the most underrated foodie destination?
I would say here in St. Petersburg. For me it was a very big surprise because I am always so amazed by the culinary development of this city.
12. What is the best dessert you have ever had?
Antoine Santos‘s “Gaia Cake” in Tokyo.
13. You are one of the best pastry chefs in the world. What sets a great leader of the pack apart from the rest?
I don’t think I am one of the best. I just do my job with passion and I had the chance to learn very good basics with the great chefs that I was able to work with. I always try my own pastry style and vision first. This is the hardest in the current time with social networks.
14. What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a successful baker?
Never count the hours of work. Work again and again in order to perfect your work. It is a manual trade which requires a lot of practice before you can master it, and never forget that the bases are by far the most important.
15. Please provide some advice to home cooks to help them improve their cooking.
It is always more difficult to cook at home, so for my part I always do simple and gourmet things that require little equipment. It is really very difficult to reproduce what we do in a workplace at home, and often the simplest things are the hardest to do!