Heather Kaniuk, Executive Pastry Chef of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Heather is a young, sensible very talented lady who is now heading up the pastry department at the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. She was previously working with the great Graham Hornigold, who is known to have discovered and trained many talented pastry chefs who are now blooming in their careers in London and elsewhere. Pamper yourself with an afternoon tea at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and enjoy Heather’s wonderful creations!
How would you introduce yourself?
My name is Heather Kaniuk, executive pastry chef at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London. Originally from New Zealand, I moved to London to pursue my dream and worked my way up to where I am today.
How did you enter into the pastry world?
I initially trained as a chef but I always had the desire to become a pastry chef. However, I believed it was essential to understand the importance of taste and seasoning in the savoury kitchen, and so I spent many years honing my skills on this side of the kitchen first. I later moved to pastry, where I enjoyed the precision and scientific aspect of patisserie.
You have challenged yourself by becoming a head pastry chef of such a prestigious and big hotel. What are your feelings now when you are working in such position?
It’s a new challenge; it’s more diverse than my previous position, but equally as rewarding, if not more. The diversity of products that we produced keeps me on my toes, and the team within the hotel is developing into a great little unit.
What is your secret desire/ambition?
I am here to be the best I can be, to make good pastry and train chefs on the way. I do have my own ambitions but these are secondary, as the product for the hotel and the development of my team is paramount to me at present.
Do you have an ultimate dream?
My ultimate dream is to move back home and run a casual restaurant/cafe with a small deli attached. I would make croissants, rustic breads, wholegrain salads, stock local produce and live by the beach. But it’s a few years away…
What is your greatest achievement?
Right now I am balancing a busy work schedule with completing my degree in Hospitality Management. I am really looking forward to finishing my dissertation shortly as a lot of hard work and long nights have gone into completing it!
What/who is inspiring you?
I am inspired by many things – my mentors and the chefs I have worked with previously, including everyone at Hakkasan Group pastry; Peter Gordon and Ben Bayly who always pushed me to be the best I could be.
I like to find inspiration in nature and everyday things, or new products. My new team constantly inspires me and I love to help them develop, become more creative and innovative.
What do you love most about your work?
Every day is different! One of the benefits of working Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is that there are always different requests and preferences, and we strive to go above and beyond, exceeding our guests’ expectations. This gives the pastry a lot of opportunities to be creative and try out different things- and an opportunity to teach my team new skills.
What do you think is most difficult to master?
For me, sugar work is a difficult skill to master. As I did my training in New Zealand this is not a skill that is taught or revered as it is in Europe, and so I have only started to learn it recently.
What are your favourite flavours?
I love unusual and exotic flavours. Growing up down-under has exposed me to a huge array of flavours. New Zealand is a melting pot of cultures from Asian to Indian to Maori and European, and so I grew up loving many cuisines. This led me to love travelling, especially through the Americas, Caribbean and the Middle East. I like to use a lot of Asian flavours – matcha, pandan, yuzu, and Middle Eastern flavours such as saffron, date and pomegranate.
What is your relationship with chocolate?
I am most often found in the pastry kitchen eating chocolate! It is my go-to whether I am happy, sad, hungry, bored, studying….
Which Cacao Barry chocolate is your favourite and why?
I really like using ‘Alto et Sol’ as it has a great depth of flavour. I also love ‘Mexique,’ for its intense fruitiness.
Which chocolate desserts are on your menu now and which are your favourites?
On our PAN afternoon tea we currently have the “Blackbeards Cannonball” which is a chocolate mousse and caramelised banana petit gateaux in the shape of a bomb. It’s very fun and playful. On our in-room dining menu we have a chocolate, coffee and mascarpone parfait, which takes the classic flavours of a tiramisu but transforms them into a more modern form. We also have a salted caramel and milk chocolate tart available in all outlets which is proving to be extremely popular.
What would be your final message for our readers?
When it comes to pastry, do not be afraid to be creative! I encourage my team to do so and always end up with fantastic concoctions…. and most importantly, when you are tempted to indulge in some sweet dessert, go for it and enjoy!