Sunday, 9 March 2014

Who's Who Eat Out of Pierre Herme's Hand As He Reveals Secret of Best-Selling Macaroon

This is the report that appeared in Mail Today (Page 8) on Sunday, March 9.
Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

DELEGATES TO THE India Today Conclave 2014 started Day Two with a sweet surprise from the man who rewrote the flavour DNA of the macaroon and turned it into a global sensation. A packed house got not only a peek into the mild-mannered Pierre Herme's universe of tastes and pleasures, but also generous helpings of the confection that's been singularly responsible for his global fame.
Herme built his reputation on the Ispahan, his best-selling macaroon that marries the never-before-combined flavours of fresh raspberry, canned litchi and rose petal buttercream. It is a monument to his ability to create new taste profiles and he demystified the process at the session chaired by the acclaimed food writer Rashmi Uday Singh.
Pierre Herme wowed the high-powered turnout
on the second day of the India Today Conclave
2014 on Saturday, March 8, with his globally
renowned macaroons, flown in from Paris
"An idea comes to me from an image or a product, or a conversation I have with someone, or something that I have read," he said as our teeth sank into a Celeste, a marriage of passion fruit, rhubarb and strawberry, and another made with Peruvian dark chocolate from the village of Asprobo in Morropon province, and yet another that combined the seductive powers of milk chocolate and passion fruit.
Even Deepika Padukone, looking svelte as always in a white dress, couldn't resist the temptation of having one. She walked into her conversation with Koel Purie Rinchet, which followed Herme's session, eating one of the macaroons that had won the heart of the who's who gathered in the hall.
It was on a visit to Bulgaria in 1987, when he was a pastry chef with the French fine food merchant Fauchon, that the macaroon maestro hit upon the idea that evolved into Ispahan. He was struck by the use of rose in Bulgarian cuisine, so he returned and created a cake called Paradise with fresh raspberries and rose petal butter cream.
Paradise did not become the global rage till he added litchi in 1997 and it was then that Herme developed the macaroon with the new formula. Today, as many as 40 different products from Herme's empire have the three ingredients in different proportions.
"I have in mind the taste and texture, which I translate into a drawing with a precise recipe at the bottom," Herme continued, reminding one of the creative process of Satyajit Ray, who used to sketch every scene before shooting it.
At any given time in his Paris laboratory, 30 to 40 new products are developed, tasted and tested, for Herme, like a haute couturier, makes "high-end customised products" exclusively for individual clients who get to savour flavour combinations that are never repeated again. Unsurprisingly, Pierre Herme, the brand, is on the Comite Colbet, an exclusive club of French luxury labels.
"My ideas and inspirations come from everywhere," Herme said. On a recent visit to Hong Kong, for instance, he discovered the Eight Treasures Tea, whose remarkable flavours are most likely to find their way into his future creations.
Rashmi Uday Singh, who surprised the audience by mentioning how Herme had developed a keen interest in Valmiki's Ramayana, asked the 'Picasso of Pastry' if India was going to inspire him to create a new flavour. Herme, who first came to India a couple of years ago on a holiday, chose not to answer the question. Maybe there's something cooking in his laboratory that he doesn't yet wish to reveal to the world.