Reece Collier, head pastry chef at The Grove, the second chapter
How was this year for you? What were the most important things that happened in your professional life?
The last year has been incredibly busy, and it feels like it was only a month ago when we chatted. I think the biggest highlight of my year was competing on Bake Off: Crème de la Crème. Although a very short journey for Ben Crocker, Lauren Roberts and I, I feel very proud to have made it that far, and show that we can compete with some of the top pastry chefs and establishments in the country.
You also went to Paris to create your own chocolate at Cacao Barry’s Or Noir lab. How was that experience?
For every pastry chef who has passion for chocolate, there is no better place than the Cacao Barry Or Noir Lab. It literally is like being a kid in a candy shop. But I think the highlight of the trip was my train ride home, because after all the tasting and being emerged in a sensory overload, I had 2 peaceful hours where my creative imagination kicked into overdrive and I started planning and envisioning where I can use my newly created chocolate.
Was it as you expected and if not, what was different?
It was everything I expected and more - from walking up to the original Charles Barry house where the Or Noir lab is based, to working with their Head Or Noir Technician. You learn a lot about your palate and about the journey from bean to bar.
How would you describe your perfect chocolate?
My perfect chocolate would be a very high percentage milk chocolate, smooth and subtly sweet with a light smokiness.
Is the chocolate you created at Or Noir your ideal chocolate?
I think what I managed to create at the lab is very fitting for a hotel like The Grove. I’m planning on calling it The Garden Collection. You only have to visit The Grove to understand why I was inspired to create not just one but three chocolates connected to the garden.
Our 69% Dark Chocolate is very floral and fruity, with a good depth of Cocoa but not too bitter. It’s a very clean dark chocolate which for me is very important.
Our 42% Milk Chocolate was inspired by our Walled Garden and Beach Area. It would be instantly recognizable by the hints of honey which was inspired by our very own Grove Estate honey which is harvested in late summer. It has subtle hints of cinnamon and a very delicate smokiness which brings back memories of the last remaining embers of a summer BBQ .
The White Chocolate was probably the easiest of the three to create, very milky and creamy but not too sweet. It will be great to pair and match with our incredible Tea selection that we serve in the lounges along with our Afternoon Tea.
You created your first dessert using this chocolate. What are the flavours and textures of it?
The dessert was actually inspired by that classic childhood flavour of Peanut Butter and Jelly. Our fruity dark chocolate works incredibly well with fresh picked raspberries from the Walled Garden, and that depth of cocoa flavour really lends itself to the peanut butter.
What inspired you to create this dessert?
I guess I have to thank my partner for introducing me to peanut butter, without her I wouldn’t have tried to make a true classic in an elegant modern interpretation.
Do you have any special plans for the next 12 months?
The biggest challenge over the next 12 months will be mentoring my team to compete at the Salon Culinaire in Birmingham at the Hospitality Show in January. I have a very new team with a good handful of them being in their first job here at The Grove. I think in total we will look at entering possibly 16 categorys between 112 chefs. It’s a great way for them to learn new techniques and master the old ones in a high pressured environment. I have to thank my Executive Chef Harry Lomas for supporting us and encouraging us to take part in the competitions like Hotelympia or Hospitality Show.
Reece, we wish you and your team a great next 12 months and are looking forward to our next interview.