Marcio Baltazar, the head pastry chef of two Michelin starred Ocean in Portugal
Where did it all start? How did you fall in love with cooking, pastry and chocolate?
An aunt of mine used to do weddings and I would help her during my holidays or on weekends. I started to enjoy it, so I decided to try working in a seafood restaurant during my summer holidays, which was followed by a training in pastry. After the training, I started making chocolate sculptures to participate in an exhibition organized by the school. One year after that exhibition, I entered a festival with an actual size chocolate spiderman and ended up winning the award for best artwork at the festival.
What was your educational journey? Who were your best mentors and what was the best lecture you’ve got?
I’m trained in several different hospitality areas (table service, kitchen, wines, pastry and bakery), but I decided to follow pastry. My references are all people with whom I worked with in several different contexts along the years. During those years I’ve met people that really left a mark on me. Salvador Sauled, Xavi Puigvert and Jauma Mainegre in Barcelona for giving me the chance to work in Barcelona, Yann Duytsche for teaching me the essence of high-pastry, Leonardo de Sousa for teaching me what it is like to work in haute cuisine, my current executive chef Hans Neuner for trusting me, believing in my work and allowing me to lead Ocean’s pastry.
You are working at the 2 Michelin starred Ocean at the beautiful Vila Vita Parc resort in Algarve, which is very much influenced by, like the name says, ocean. How do Ocean and ocean influence your work?
I always try to use something connected to the sea like plants from the coast and I like to mix sea ingredients and use sea themes. We have a bread made with seaweed, amongst other elements in the menu. I am always careful about including in the menu something connected to the sea, so that the experience at Ocean is not all about the salty dishes.
What do you like best about your work?
Hard work, pressure and results. The most gratifying thing is to achieve my goals such as combining flavours that end up making me happy. And of course, making the customer leave Ocean satisfied and fulfilled.
What do you find most challenging?
Working at Ocean has been a big challenge because of what it means, of what surrounds us, the theme, the pressure… The project itself is very challenging. It’s also a challenge when we welcome guests that have very specific food preferences/restrictions and we have to create a dessert without all those ingredients that the guest cannot eat.
What about your relation to chocolate?
My relation with chocolate goes back a long way. In Barcelona, chocolate is a very important ingredient, and when I was working there, I was for a time responsible for a chocolate production. And of course, in pastry, high quality chocolate is essential and a key element for any pastry chef.
I’ve thought about eliminating chocolate from the menu but then at the end it is always a missing key element. So I guess my relation with chocolate will be eternal.
How do you like to enjoy chocolate?
I enjoy it in any possible way, it just depends of the moment. I do however really like 60% black chocolate and milk chocolate as well.
Which is your favourite Cacao Barry chocolate? Why? What do you like to pair it with?
I like the Fleur de Cao and the Madirofolo. I also really like sorvet and I find that the perfect combination will always be passion fruit with black chocolate or milk chocolate.
Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
In traditions, in the products, in the origins. I like to receive a product and look at what’s around me and try different and unlikely combinations.
The best inspiration can come out of nothing. There are times when I can spend weeks thinking about something and others when inspiration comes in a matter of hours. Something really important for the creative work is to receive an exceptional quality product that we know exactly where it comes from. From then on we can start working around its history.
How would your ideal dessert look like?
Well, it’s something unattainable because tastes differ as well as work contexts. But I would say that it would have to be something really natural, with as minimum sugar as possible, and the ingredients would have to support themselves. There shouldn’t be too many different flavours and it should absolutely be something that makes me happy.
And which is the best dessert you ever had and what was so great about it?
Tons, but a few months ago I tried one that reminded me of my childhood. It was made of coffee and barley and it reminded me of a porridge that I used to eat when I was a kid, that was called Predilecta. And when you activate in your brain childhood flavours, you know it’s a win.
In 2018 will in Paris take place World Chocolate Masters. The theme will be Futropolis. How do you see the desserts of the future?
The desserts of the future will have to be something with authentic and nutritious flavours, as well as environmentally friendly, with natural and local products.
Do you have any golden dream?
I would love to go to a farm we have in Mozambique when I turn 40 and create a sustainable project there.