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The Artisans of Food

12 DEC 2019
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Jessica Prealpato, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée | Photo credit: bakemag.com

Passion is a word that is often overused, but in the context of food it is perhaps the most important ingredient for success. Only the passionate will break through the competition, fight to avoid failure, and push boundaries of innovation to perfect their craft. It is this passion that keeps entrepreneurs, both young and weathered, up all night trying to find new and creative ways to solve the ‘unsolvable’ problems. It is passion that pushes them to develop new and unique products and to invent better and more creative ways to do things. It was also passion what drove our founder, Benny Leung, to quit his job and open the first “Not Only Coffee” experience in Hong Kong. His obsession with design and customer experience as well as with the quality of our products is only rivaled by our head roaster, Sam Chan’s obsession with the perfect roast, a process that combines some of the most critical aspects of the craft and science of coffee.

In acknowledgement of the many passionate individuals around the world who take their craft as seriously and to the heart as we do, this week’s post features five food artisans who have turned their work into true forms of art.

Jessica Prealpato

Few will argue that cooking is a form of art that requires special skills and a refined palate, but baking pastries is in a whole other level. No one knows this as much as Jessica Prealpato, the pastry chef at the Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée restaurant in Paris, who was recently crowned as the world’s best pastry chef of 2019. The perfection in every proportion of ingredients and in every stage of the baking process, the obsessive attentiveness to detail, the delicacy and perfection in every decoration, it all makes each one of Jessica’s creations a true art piece. However, it’s her choice for ingredients and their combination what makes her work stand out from all the rest.

Jessica Prealpato combines apparently disparate elements such as seaweed and lemon to make the most interesting desserts. With the aim to indulge without the afterward guilt, she lowered the sugar, cream and dough content, making these desserts healthier and more natural, tapping into modern consumer trends while staying well off the beaten path.

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Adam Melonas, founder of food research lab, Chew | Photo credit: bostonglobe.com

Adam Melonas

No one could say that this Australian born chef is a newcomer to the gastronomic industry. This chemistry-savvy entrepreneur turns out to be one of the best representatives of molecular cuisine – a style of cooking, sometimes described as deconstructivist, which combines traditional recipes from all over the world, with cutting edge scientific techniques to produce the most exquisite experiences for your palate. The self-proclaimed Willy Wonka has a presence and an attitude that’s hard to ignore, but it is his characteristic disruptiveness that has propelled him to stardom in the culinary world.

With a passion for cooking and science, but above all for innovation, Melonas has made it his mission in life to make snacks healthy, and to change the way the world eats, one bite at a time. After traveling the world in search of new flavours and aromas and learning the ins and outs of molecular cuisine from the best chefs in the world, and when everyone was expecting him to open his own kitchen, he took a steep change of direction and cofounded Unreal Brands in an attempt to make healthier candy that tasted better than the “real” things. Afterwards he founded Chew, a Boston based food research lab that develops high-tech food products for multi-million dollar international companies.

With a mission to make delicious yet healthy food available to the masses, Adam Melonas is a must in our list of passionate entrepreneurs.

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Judy Schad, Capriole Goat Cheeses | Photo credit: murrayscheese.com

Judy Schad

If Adam Melonas took to high-tech cuisine, Judy Schad from Capriole Goat Cheeses took to the opposite direction. As it happens with so many city dwellers, Judy always dreamt of living in a farm, and she saw her dream realised when she and her husband bought an 80-acre property in Indiana, USA. After falling in love with goat cheese the moment she first tried it and not knowing what to do with goat’s milk her children wouldn’t drink, she set out to become a cheese maker. Over 30 years later, she is now regarded as one of the modern American artisan cheese makers founding mothers.

After years of experimentation, practice and dedication, she developed many different recipes that were a huge success both domestically and internationally. Her passion for goat cheese making is evident in everything from the way she talks about her beloved goats, to the way she still considers herself as her most important client. She is a true artisan who not only worries about producing the best cheese possible, but who also takes care to choose her clients carefully to make sure that they’ll take every proper care to ensure that it will reach the end consumer in perfect conditions.

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Joane L’Heureux, master chocolatiers | Photo credit: lheureuxchocolats.ca

Joane L’Heureux

What do many passionate members of the food industry have in common? They have a certain je ne sais quoi that’s absolutely contagious; a love and enthusiasm for what they do that’s hard to overlook; something you either love or you don’t, but which you can definitely not remain indifferent to. Those are just some of the things that characterise Joane L’Heureux, one of the best master chocolatiers in Canada.

What sets Joane apart from all the rest is her use of unique natural ingredients that most other chocolatiers wouldn’t dare mix with chocolate. By obsessing over flavour and quality and experimenting during long hours, she has managed to create the most entrancing sweets with unforgettable flavours. The authenticity of her chocolate recipes stems from her use of natural and fresh ingredients. She manages to achieve a perfect balance between the bitterness of cocoa, the texture of cream, the sweetness of burnt caramel and the aroma of fresh herbs like basil or lavender.

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Franco Pepe’s, Pepe in Grani | Photo credit: finedininglovers.com

Franco Pepe

Pizzerias have yet to be awarded a Michelin star, yet, if ever they do, the first one of its kind will probably go to Franco Pepe’s Pepe in Grani, located in a small Italian town on the slopes of Vesuvius called Caiazzo. What makes this small pizzeria so special? None other than Pepe himself, a third generation Italian baker and pizza maker, who decided to create a series of gourmet pizza recipes to express and praise the local produce of his hometown region. The results of his passion for cooking and for his heritage are expressed every day in his work, when he creates some of the best Pizzas in the world.

Pepe features the best of his region in different ways. The local variety riccio tomatoes are used in a minimalistic margherita, taking special care to process them cold into a passata that’s added raw to the molten mozzarella di buffalo cheese while it’s in the oven. The desired effect is to keep all the natural flavour of this ribbed tomato variety intact until it reaches the palate. Even though his approach to pizzas can be defined as traditional, his pizzas could be described as simplicity made perfection. Even so, he does feature some local ingredients you wouldn’t expect to find in a pizza, like an extra-sweet variety of apricot called Crisommola.

When passion meets skill and experience, the only possible result is excellence. That is precisely what these five artisans have in common: a combination of tireless devotion to their craft and their produce and a mindset to learn everything there is to learn and to make life a joyful experience worth living. It is lives like these that inspire us every day at NOC, and impel us to curate only the finest beans, to roast each bean to perfection and to brew the best coffee you can find anywhere. We hope that you will also find inspiration in these five behemoths of the modern culinary world.