The route between Tokyo, Japan, and Paris, France would appear to be the sweetest when it comes high-class confectionery: young and hopeful, the most promising oriental pastry chefs leave Tokyo to come to Europe. And once they have gained the necessary experience slaving over a hot Parisian stove, they are ready to go back home and challenge the big boys. The secret of this success story lies in the contamination between two genres – the French school and tradition melded with oriental tastes – which compensate each other to create a – sweet – gourmet experience that is truly unbeatable.
In Sadaharu Aoki’s boutiques for instance, a chain boasting retail stores and kitchen laboratories in several arrondissements of Paris, as well as in Tokyo, it is possible to enjoy macarons aromatized with exotic ingredients such as sesame, matcha and yuzu, or the mythical éclairs, the elongated choux pastries so typical of France, in a new revisited version thanks to which Aoki has been crowned the “best maker of éclairs in the world”. At Ciel patisserie, located on 5th Avenue New York, as well as in Paris, the Japanese chef Hironobu Fukano prepares his angel cake, ordered by customers all over the world, whose delicate preparation is typical of the expert hands of oriental chefs; not to mention the petits fours served in a unique origami packaging.
Norihiko Terai, on the other hand, has become one of the most celebrated pastry chefs of Tokyo after years of study and experience in Europe: his downtown boutique named Aigre Douce (bittersweet) is well worth a visit, also for the European tourists wishing to taste for instance his Misérables cake with salt and caramel, or chocolate invariably teamed up with fresh seasonal ingredients. For those keen to taste the delicate and colourful mousses typical of French desserts, but with an oriental twist, a French-Japanese experience served up by Hidemi Sugino is an absolute must. Having trained in the French culinary school, where he was awarded the Coupe de Monde de la Pâtisserie in the nineties, Sugino has become one of the most sought-after names in Tokyo. It is possible to queue up for hours outside his pastry shop and, when you have finally reached the counter, you may discover that some of these artworks are so delicate that they have to be eaten on the spot, inside the store. Protected as though they were masterpieces of inestimable value, his unique petits fours may not be exposed to Smartphone or camera flashes.
But what really makes the new Japanese pastry chefs among the best on the planet? Here are the ingredients of their success: first and foremost, an authentic passion shared by all Japanese people for everything European confectionery represents. French confectionery, in particular, of course. But this is not sufficient to explain the phenomenon because the most renowned pastry chefs of Tokyo are not just Frenchmen who have emigrated to Tokyo, but Japanese-born chefs who have studied in Europe. Emulation is not sufficient to explain their talent, which stems from a maniacal precision, typical of a country that creates products involving an enormous number of carefully studied details. Besides, they have an in-born dedication to work ethics and are particularly gifted when it comes to manual dexterity. Lastly, the delicacies served by the most outstanding venues in Tokyo and Paris reveal an artful blend of aromas and flavours which defy the conventions of traditional European confectionery, with recipes made from seasonal ingredients and exotic tastes never previously experimented by their French colleagues.