Executive Pasty Head Chef Regis Cursan…”Pastry is a way of Life”

Regis Cursan Nobu Uk Executive Pastry chef

I first meet Regis in Nobu Park Lane. A very tall pastry executive head chef with a sense of awe surrounding him. Regis appeared very gigantic and the french stripes on his collar definitely deserves respect.

I was always very aware of his presence and of course always observant of the work that was being created in the pastry section at the time I was working in Nobu. This is purely because there was far more to learn from that section then the normal chef sections. I was already fully aware at that time that pastry techniques are that  which propelled new innovative revolutions and possibility’s in cuisine. If we see all techniques irregardless of pastry or savoury  without prejudice, we can potentially evolve to infinite possibilities!

After getting to know Regis and his family a bit better, the giant of awe revealed  a very gentle and  humorous side.

He is a very intelligent and interesting person, he is funny and he has a very unique way of how his minde works, of how he sees things that truly stimulate fantastical concepts and creations. I always feel it is the way you are as a person and the way you see the life that makes the difference and ultimately is responsible for making you an artist or not. Additionally he has a very big technical vocabulary and knowledge to enable him to execute his creations and visions to perfection.

Born in 1974 Regis made his first appearance in a professional kitchen at the age of 17. Inspired as a child from his Grand mother, Regis seized every opportunity to learn at her side. His formal pastry education completed ,he served 14 months the French army in Guyana where he developed an interest for “exotic” fruits and vegetables ,spending his time off in the forest with farmers.

Back in France he carries on perfecting his craft and skills in different shops and restaurants. Moving to London in 1999 he worked in Patisserie Valerie for several years, punctuating with stages in France and Spain. In 2004 following the request of his long time friend Gabriele Riva he joined Nobu in Park lane, 2 years later he was offered the position of Executive Pastry chef for the group in the UK.

Gabriele Riva

Regis is also a well know Mudlark scouring the river Thames for ancient artefacts. (see below this article)

I recently conducted a mini interview with Regis Cursan on several subjects on chocolate, passions and ancient treasures found in the river Thames:

Who was the person that inspires you the most regarding your work and why? 

Regis:  As pastry chef  I will named a few Oriol Balaguer,Ramon Moratto,Albert Adria and Gabriele Riva for his adventurous side Dominique Persoone.

Ramon Morato
Albert Adria
Oriol Balaguer
Dominique Persoone

You have been closely working with Nobu-san for a good while now. Could you tell us a little about your experience of Nobu-san and the effect of work:

Regis: Nobu-san has been spearheading the Re-evolution of that type of cuisine. If the product itself may seems dated now i think most of his dishes have now turned “classics” and his followers numerous. His influence on the cuisine added with his artistic ability and creativity, I m sure will leave their mark. Ralph Waldo Emesron said:. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” I think that’s exactly what Nobusan did.

Wow this is a superb quote, so iconic and inspirational!

Nobu Matsuhisa in the Amazon

There is a huge culinary revolution coming out of south america right now with restaurants like DOM brazil/ Lima peru / BIKU Mexico etc amongst the top 50 top restaurant in the world. Nobu being a peruvian japanese fusion may this new exiting culinary dynamic from south america influence your new menu here in London NOBU? 

Regis: The challenge we re facing with  products straight from the Amazon or south America  is they re not well know to the mainstream public making it difficult to compose dessert which will sell, even with the best front of the house staff.

Yes in London it always seems a bit more of a struggle to get people to buy into new trends and ideas. Can be frustrating at times. However London most defiantly has been finally hit by the south american food movement at last. Very cool of Nobu to have sensed this already all these years ago.

Which south american ingredient are you most exited about? 

Without been a Capuchin Monkey I like, lulo, mangoosten, guanabana, zapote, and Tamarillo for its Umami content (which I  discovered).

Lulo – A very typical Colombian fruit that is only found there and in neighbouring Ecuador (where it’s known as naranjilla). It isn’t the easiest fruit to eat – it needs to be eaten when very soft, there are seeds to deal with and it’s a bit tart, so it’s usually used for juice. Jugo de Lulo is wonderful and refreshing with a sweet, almost sherbet flavour.
Guanábana- Another Colombian classic the soursop. It’s huge with a green spiky skin and a slimy white inside. The juice – it looks like milk and has an unusual but mild flavour.
TASTE: like a cross between a mango and a papaya
TEXTURE: fibrous like a mango and juicy when ripe.
Tamarillo originates from the mountainous area of Peru. From here the cultivation of these has spread along the Andes Mountains to neighbouring countries.
The Tamarillo belongs to the same botanical family as physalis and tomatoes. A Tamarillo is actually ½ fruit and ½ vegetable. It can either be eaten fresh or coked.
Tamarillos can be used as both a fruit and a vegetable.

Nobu being a Peruvian Japanese fusion concept how do you incorporate the exotic fruit varieties of south america into your menu?

Regis: While living in Guyana I tried a wide range of food and after extensive experimentation with them brought me mixed results acknowledging that I wanted the product untainted. A fruit itself can be the best dessert like a ripe mango for instance. Few years back we used to serve a frozen mango  cream  at Nobu Sun ripped mangoes straight from brazil peeled freeze and churned with the pacojet  one word:deliciosooooooo.

I believe in simplicity in my desserts but  merging the Japanese with European and south American is a complex manoeuvre , resulting in a synergy who creates a total effect far beyond expectation.

What you just said hit a big cord on my piano:
For some reason COCO CHANEL sprang to my mind, she said:”I alwaystake off at least one piece of jewelry before I leave the house”.

There is a time in every chefs life before refining himself, were we tend to over clutter our dishes with unnecessary garnishes, molesting our creations with to many tweezers or overcomplicating things often making good looking dishes however the essence is not fully in harmony.

Then after this phase we feel a need to strip it all down – to find the true soul of the dish. ” If there is no reason or purpose of it, lets get rid of it” and we focus on working more specific. You could not have put it better the way you just said it:  which is very profound and important but at the same time not easy.

Many Kaiseki master chefs I worked with always say that simplicity is the hardest thing. Especially now when you want to fuse to different cuisines then this is crucial and certainly a very high skill otherwise it is confusion food.

Which is your favourite chocolate you like to work with and is ethical fair traid and sustainable an important issue we need to consider?

Regis: Chocolate wise I ve been using Chocovic for 5 years  the product is good, consistent and also reasonably priced , I also use the range of OB chocolate which ethically correspond to my belief.

CHOCOVIC’s origins can be traced to the city of Vic, in the province of Barcelona, where a small family business called CHOCOLATES ARUMI was set up. Its commitment to high quality service led it to create special blends for locals to suit their particular tastes.
In 1977 the business was bought by a Spanish company, NEDERLAND, which changed the name of the business to CHOCOVIC and turned it into an industrial chocolate factory specialised in artisan pastry making and confectionery.
In 2009, Chocovic entered the Barry Callebaut group, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate – from the cocoa bean to the finished chocolate product.. As such, the advantages of belonging to a large business group are combined with Chocovic’s technical knowledge and experience. See more at http://www.barry-callebaut.com.
White Line Hotels’ collaborator Original Beans was born out of two loves – chocolate and conservation. The concept is simple yet brilliant: the world’s best cocoa beans come from their natural environment, equatorial rainforests, yet these rich and diverse environments are disappearing at an astonishing rate. Therefore, for every bar of Original Beans chocolate that is purchased, local farmers plant a tree that will support the rich biodiversity of the local forest. The consumer plays an interactive role and is able to track their contribution to the process because every bar comes with a unique tracking number. With a strict set of principles, and a commitment to active participation, Original Beans is both an example of what a modern company should aspire to and the model that many see as the only way to maintain the environment. Finally, a chocolate we can feel good about eating in more ways then one!
Philipp Kauffmann, co-founder of the company, is dedicated to concepts of sustainability, conservation, and reforestation. In the 90′s Kaufmann founded an Internet portal for volunteers in development, since then he’s worked with the WWF and on an investment portfolio of biodiversity firms. He also initiated the reforestation of the deserted delta of the Colorado River with the world’s first saltwater forest.

France of course having a very vast, creative and crucial history in pastry, how do you feel about the evolution of pastry or pastry chefs in london compared to Spain who have so very avantgarde having lead the way very consistently over the years?

Regis: I think London is following a slow but steady gradual process regarding dessert. It may take a few more years but we may end up where we re heading . Parallel to the Spanish which have been the leaders for a while, due to the economic climate they even have to work harder and be constantly innovative, we in London have to find ways to develop the interest and create a durable, sustainable  need for our creations.

What is your dream for the future? If you could do anything with out any restriction what would you like to see happen in the world of pastry?

Regis: On my to-do list: I would like to teach pastry and personal development linked to pastry rejuvenating the inculcation , and have a production unit to be able to produce and spread my products (Chocolate bonbon ,ice creams ,cakes).

Selling retails and on markets to reach all household budgets.

At the moment I m learning how to shape hardwoods timbers and Steel welding  to create new shapes of cake rings and trays.

Building your own tools is something I can completely identify with.  It makes your craft more personal and exiting in so many ways.

I am not a pastry chef however I am always interested in pastry development myself because  If it were not for the pastry and Ferran Adria stating…. :

“The barriers between the sweet and savoury world are being broken down. Importance is being given to a new cold cuisine, particularly in the creation of the frozen savoury world.”

….I dont think the developments in the culinary world would not have been possible.

What I meant to say is that the only way we chefs could have evolved is by braking down those barrieres and my dishes certainly have been completely revolutionised by observing all the techniques from pastry and adjusting to apply to savoury.

What advise do you have for aspiring pastry chef and chefs alike?

Regis:……….Creating a dessert and play with the interactions of flavours and textures takes time, and while  you re going through that process , dealing with your instinctual drives and needs you may face opposition , misunderstanding  not always founded and that’s the hardest part. Like a writer facing fierce criticisms for his latest novel.

Thank you so much Regis for this mini interview. I hope it will inspire others as it has inspired me. Please keep us posted on any of your pasty wisdom and creations to come.

Regis is also quite famous for his treasure hunts having found a special coin along the Thames river banks.

This is the historic coin he found:

“Pastry chef Regis Cursan was out with his metal detector near Putney Bridge in West London when he unearthed a rare item. Made from bronze and smaller than a ten pence piece, the coin – later identified as a ‘Brothel token,” depicted a man and a woman engaged in an intimate act.

Amateur archaeologist and pastry chef Regis Cursan was out with his metal detector near Putney Bridge in West London when he unearthed a rare item. Made from bronze and smaller than a ten pence piece, the coin - later identified as a 'Brothel token,' depicted a man and a woman engaged in an intimate act.

Amateur archaeologist and pastry chef Regis Cursan was out with his metal detector near Putney Bridge in West London when he unearthed a rare item. Made from bronze and smaller than a ten pence piece, the coin – later identified as a ‘Brothel token,’ depicted a man and a woman engaged in an intimate act.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – Archaeologists believe the token is the first example of its kind to be found in Britain, lying in mud for almost 2,000 years.The 37-year-old Cursan told newspaper reporters that “The day I made the find it was a very low, early tide and raining heavily. At first I thought it was a Roman coin, because of the thickness and diameter.”When I rubbed the sand off the artifact the first thing I saw was the number on one side and what I thought was a goddess on the other. Little did I know at the time it was actually a rare Roman brothel token. To find something like that is a truly exciting find.”
I will post new up and coming news of Regis Cursan future pastry adventures so keep tuned and tweeted.

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