In the spotlight: Pastry Chef Wee Pai Hau
Desserts and pastries will always hold a special place in our hearts. Not only for the delightful flavours they bring, but also for their eye-catching beauty. It’s no wonder then that desserts will always elicit joy and happiness – and behind these stunning treats are charming talents whose very hands present these little packages of pleasure.
We speak to young and upcoming Pastry Chef Wee Pai Hau of One Farrer Hotel who tells us about his inspirations and journey.
Having represented Singapore at prestigious international competitions and now heading the pastry department at One Farrer Hotel, could you tell us more about yourself and your journey?
I started to get interested in pastries when I was 18. Right after secondary school, I pursued my journey to study at the Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia. I then got to meet a lot of amazing chefs during my study time. After graduation, I was recommended by one of my teachers to work in Singapore at The Intercontinental Singapore. There, I met my mentor who gave me a lot of opportunity to participate in various competitions and grow. After the last competition in Luxemburg. I got an opportunity here to join as Pastry chef.
What inspired your dive into pastry and desserts?
Curiosity. I grew up in a countryside and there were many of such beautiful creations that I never got to see before. That‘s what pushed me to explore and discover more. When I needed to decide what I wanted to do after National Service, I saw a video of a Japanese Strawberry Shortcake and I fell in love with it.
We’ve heard about your affinity with the Japanese strawberry shortcake – could you share more about the different intricacies of making pastries from different regions?
Different ingredients from different cultures. Japanese pastries normally have a lighter texture and fruitier flavours. French pastries, for example, have flavours that are richer, such as pure caramel and nut paste. Japanese Strawberry Shortcake tend to use fresh cream, fresh strawberries, and fluffy sponge. But in Europe, they like to use pastry cream to build the cake or incorporate some cheese inside.
Which region’s pastry heritage is your favorite? Why?
I like French flavours with Japanese textures. I think that this also appeals to the local palate with bright flavours and lighter textures. On the French side of things, I enjoy their straightforward flavours, but I love the delicate nature of Japanese pastries.
Tell us more about the many facets of pastry-making, like sugar / chocolate sculpting and novel baking techniques, that we don’t get to see or talk about often.
With so many beautiful pictures of pastries on social media these days, pastries now have to be very visually attractive on top of their flavour combinations. Sugar and chocolate sculpting are important to enhance experiences – especially in the context of a buffet set-up and showcase – as well as to impress diners.
One of the most recent advancements in the pastry line is this water-cut machine, which can help us cut extremely detailed decorations that aren’t always possible with the human hand. For example, I can use that machine to slice those thin layers of brioche on my new kaya toast dessert.
For a pastry chef, how would you play with different layers of flavours so that it’s not always just about sweet treats?
I tend to use the bitterness of chocolate, acidity of fruits, and the salty and crunchy notes of nuts and praline to balance the sweetness in my pastries. For example, I’ve used raspberry with chocolate, coffee with mandarin orange, and vanilla with caramel and nuts. I always start out from a diner’s perspective. Because not everyone likes things to be sweet, so I’ll ask myself what I’d like to taste if not just something sweet.
Your new local-inspired desserts at Escape Restaurant were really memorable. Tell us more about how the Kaya Toast Mille-Feuille and Ondeh-Ondeh Cake came about.
The Ondeh-Ondeh Cake has been a signature of One Farrer Hotel for a while not. So I wanted to revamp it using my own recipe, adding the fragrance of coconut and taking the sweetness down a little. Kaya toast is inspired by my – and I’m sure many of our – favourite breakfast meal. I tried to recreate it in a more Western way, incorporating mascarpone cheese and traditional brioche bread sliced thinly and dried with clarified butter to present a rich milky fragrance.
What comes to mind when you think of “Singapore food”?
Multivariate. First thing that comes to mind is the sheer amount of food and variety. We have many different races and places where we can conveniently enjoy our food. Indian, Chinese, Western, Malay cuisines, all within close proximity.
What other local flavours will you be transforming into your own dessert creations?
Exotic fruits such as guava, mango, passionfruit, pineapple, and coconut have always been amongst my favourites creating a menu with a local taste. Their flavours can be very impressive put well together. I’m also looking at Pandan, Gula Melaka, Lemongrass, and Rosella flower. In fact, I want to create one with pink guava and salted plum. I think they balance and highlight each other’s bright flavours very well. It’ll be interesting to create western desserts, like frozen items, mousse pastries, compote etc. using that.
Outside of Singapore, which culture/country can we look forward to tasting on your next chapter of innovative creations?
For Nest, our private dining restaurant, the upcoming menu features a Japanese Lemon Lime Yuzu with White Peach Terrine, as well as a French Apple Tartin and Chocolate Royale with Raspberry. I’m looking forward to reconstruct popular traditional desserts from various parts of the world next – such as the Black Forest cake, Tiramisu, New York Cheesecake, Japanese Strawberry Shortcake, and Crème Brulée. I’ve always wanted to create a menu where diners can try all the flavours of different countries. Of course, for a local flavour, I’ll be doing a banana cake with exotic crémeux.
Head over to One Farrer Hotel for a taste of Chef Wee’s intricate creations for yourself! Visit their website here for more information.