Saturday, 8 June 2019

Pastry Chef Extrodinare: Julien at Au Comptoir

Au Comptoir: The Pistachio Mille Feuille with fresh Raspberries
Most people pick restaurants based on what they want for their entree, but me on the otherhand, I make my decision solely based on the restaurant's dessert menu! Dessert is life and life is too short to not indulge yourself. Vancouver's dessert scene is phenomenal, but one restaurant has always caught my attention: Au Comptoir. 

Au Comptoir's Executive Pastry Chef, Julien, also noticed my infatuation of everything sweet. Before I knew it, I was seated across from the man himself with a sampling of his creations on the table between us. 

Chef Julien is a classically trained pastry chef from Paris, France and after working 2 years in Singapore, Chef Julien made his way across the Atlantic Ocean to Vancouver, BC, Canada! Despite only calling Vancouver home fo 2 years, Chef Julien has acclimated well and is barely indistinguishable from the local hipsters. He sports a classic dad hat, circular wire-framed glasses and an eclectic collection of tattoos that any hipster would be envious of. The only thing that gives Chef Julien away is his to die for French accent - in my opinion, the French accent only makes him more hip. 

Being the resident pastry chef at Au Comptoir, Chef Julien focuses on perfecting traditional French desserts. Truth be told, I have always gravitated towards desserts made by pastry chefs trained in France. 

"I think every desseert and cake has a beauty of their own, but for mine, I try to put all the love I can into them. But of course, its the details - Details is what makes the difference"

In France, the internships, for lack of another word, are ROUGH. It is long gruelling hours of endless work and nothing short of perfection is accepted. An example from Chef Julien's training is when he asked his mentor to teach him how to do chocolate lettering using a parchment paper cone: A Paper Cornet. His mentor agreed, but to no surprise, it would have to be on Chef Julien's own time. So every single day, Chef Julien would stay an extra 15 minutes to practice folding paper cornets and piping chocolate lettering. Chef Julien would even practice at home using toothpaste! Practice really does make for perfection! 

Now I could not leave Au Comptoir without actually trying some of Chef Julien's offerings and he did not disappoint bringing out his favourite four desserts. 

The Chocolate Fondant is a warm chocolate cake that is popped into the oven to order. 9 minutes later, the Chocolate Fondant arrives at your table with a molten centre of 70% dark bitter Tropillia Valrhona Chocolate. The gooey chocolatey goodness pairs perfectly with the big scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream and bitter caramel sauce. An excellent dessert for all the chocolate lovers at the table! 

Au Comptoir Executive Pastry Chef Julien
The Tartelette Façon Tatin is filled with house-made crème fraîche and caramelized apples. Of the four desserts, this was my least favourite. I usually love caramelized spiced apple desserts, but this one was a little underwhelming in flavour when compared to the other desserts. The crème fraîche layer in it though was divine!

Of course, every French restaurant must have a Lemon Meringue tarttelette on their menu. Au Comptoir's version did not disappoint and dare I say perhaps even my favourite Lemon Meringue tart to date. Most places are unable to balance the tartness of lemon against the sugar, but Chef Julien really achieved the perfect play of sweet and sour. 

I saved my favourite dessert for last: The Pistachio Mille Feuille with fresh Raspberries. A decadent rich pistachio pastry cream is sandwiched between house made puff pastry and is finished with fresh raspberries and a coulis. I appreciated the fresh lightness of this dessert and it was on the less sweet end of the spectrum which I prefer. 

Despite being restrained to classic French desserts, Chef Julien has still managed to bring his own flair in terms of both flavour and presentation. The mille-feuille is served on its side, so the pastry cream faces upwards and he has opted for fresh fruit in place of the usual fondant glaze. The meringue on the lemon tartelette is expertly piped in a mesmerizing spiral before being hit with a blowtorch. The smallest change of presentation brings new excitement to classic French desserts we have all come to love and enjoy. 

Chef Julien is only just getting his start in Vancouver. He recently helped Au Comptoir secure silver in 2019 Van Magazine's best dessert category. 

Before I finished up my afternoon of desserts with Chef Julien, I wanted to know what flavour he really hopes to work with in the future. Perhaps we are meant to be best pals because he belted out:

" Matcha! I love matcha!" 

Thank you for having me over for a lazy afternoon of conversations over desserts. I am certain I will be seeing more of you in the future Chef Julien! 

BYES




Au Comptoir Desserts: Tartelette Façon Tatin on the left and the Lemon Meringue Tartelette on the right
Au Comptoir: Chocolate Fondant
Au Comptoir: Lemon Meringue Tartlette 
Au Comptoir: The Pistachio Mille Feuille with fresh Raspberries

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