Ten Minutes with Reece Collier, Head pastry chef at The Grove
Reece Collier is the one who will pamper you with the sweet delights if you visit The Grove, the lovely resort only 18 miles away from central London.
As a graduate from Westminster Kingsway, he was trained under the likes of Javier Mercado, Gary Hunter and a few other recognisable names associated with Westminster Kingsway. He gathered his experiences working in London at The Law Society, Chancery Lane before moving out to Hertfordshire to work in various hotels and spa clubs.
Attracted to Australia he has spent a year working at fantastic Artisan Bakers along the Gold Coast. His first big break came upon his arrival home, with an opportunity to Head up the pastry department at Stoke Park Hotel, Buckinghamshire, Working under Executive Chef Chris Wheeler.
Currently he is heading up the Pastry Kitchen at The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire where he works with the executive Chef Harry Lomas.
How would you introduce yourself?
I’m Reece Collier, Head Pastry Chef at The Grove Hotel, Spa and Resort, Hertfordshire.
How did you enter into the pastry world?
It was all an accident really, I had always taken a liking to pastry but it wasn’t until I was given the opportunity to work on the pastry section for the first time that I realised that’s where I wanted to focus my passion and energy.
What is your secret desire/ambition?
I don’t think it’s really a secret. Anybody who asks me is often met with the same response, ‘a little patisserie somewhere in the world to call my own’.
What is your ultimate dream?
To be able to work for myself, leading and inspiring a team of young pastry chefs, being able to give them the same opportunities in their careers as I have been given.
What is your greatest achievement?
I think either gaining the third rosette at Humphrey’s Restaurant, Stoke Park Hotel, Buckinghamshire, or mentoring The Groves Pastry Team to Hotelympia last year, where all competitors came away with medals. Witnessing the progress from day one to competition day was definitely one of the more memorable times in my career.
What/who is inspiring you?
Inspiration for me comes from the young chefs that are eager to learn all I can teach them. Such enthusiasm drives me to produce the best I can. I also think of those who taught me and the way they pushed me to be the best I possibly can be. Industry wise, I think what Cacao Barry are currently doing with their chocolate is inspiring. It constantly has me thinking of new ways to introduce Cacao Barry products into our kitchen.
What do you love most about your work?
There is a certain buzz/atmosphere within kitchens that unless you have experienced for yourself, you can’t really describe. Even in a calm pastry kitchen, it’s just a different kind of buzz. Guest satisfaction is also a big reward. At the hotel I am fortunate enough to meet some of our guests on a daily basis, hearing how much they enjoyed their afternoon tea or a dessert at The Stables restaurant is definitely a reward that I don’t believe a lot of chefs have the opportunity to experience.
What do you think is most difficult to master?
Either sugar craft or baking artisanal bread, understanding and recognizing the signs of when to give the right amount of attention to the dough takes years to truly master, but there are no better rewards.
What are your favourite flavours?
Chocolate is at the top of the list for sure. Chocolate, Earl Grey, Orange Marmalade and Burnt Toast has become my favourite pairing to date.
What is your relationship to chocolate?
My relationship with chocolate is one that I would like to explore more, hopefully one day becoming known not just for the creations and showpieces I can create, but more importantly for the flavour combinations
You started using Cacao Barry chocolate just recently. How is your experience with it? Have you already found you’re favourite in the Cacao Barry range?
We have recently started using Cacao Barry on a daily basis with in our production kitchen, making the switch has been tremendously easy especially with the support from Cacao Barry itself. The chefs in the kitchen have taken to it really well, I think the biggest advantage for us is its consistency, it truly delivers every time.
With regards to a favourite, for me personally, it has to be Papouasie. We used it to pair with Earl Grey, marmalade and burnt toast and the result was incredible. That’s the best thing about the range, there is something to fit every bill.
Which chocolate desserts are on your menu now and which are your favourites?
Chocolate Pave with orange notes, compressed orange and cocoa crumb is a dish worth trying from one of our banqueting menus. However, a simple chocolate choux croustillant that you can find in our afternoon tea will not disappoint either.
What was the best chocolate dessert that you have eaten and where?
I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it was somewhere in Lyon. A group of us travelled out there for the coupe de monde and I ordered this chocolate soufflé, it was simplistic yet perfect, such are the best things in life
What would be your final message for our readers?
To younger chefs, keep going, don’t give up and make sure you take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. To the foodies, please come and enjoy some of delicious treats at The Grove that the pastry team and I have put so much hard work into creating.
For the live experience visit http://www.thegrove.co.uk/