Art and baking have several things in common. Both require focus, creativity, and the ability to create sensory pleasure through disciplined execution. However, the beauty of pastry art lies within the connection between the mouth and eye of the beholder, anxious to taste what the eye sees. The eyes do eat first or so the saying goes.
Chef Christophe Measson leads the pastry team at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) which includes Frank, the members' lounge and their stunning event space. Thi
s inspired hub is where the team's art is delivered; from the deceptive simplicity of the croissant to the fine, baked bites for upscale soirées. A recent product launch for Grey Goose "La Poire" had Christophe coming up with a perfect sweet bite to pair with a Peartini, along with all the other foods to match the drinks. Christophe tells me how wonderfully inspiring it is to be surrounded by so much art: "You want to give people a continuation of their experience at the gallery. Being around so much art gives me the urge to perform and deliver."
Measson began his career near Lyon, close to where he was born. After two years of study, Christophe apprenticed in London at Stakis Hotel St. Ermin's, a five-star hotel. It was the first of five Michelin-starred properties Christophe would work for. "My early career plan was to focus on fine dining, especially with the Michelin star restaurants. This taught me discipline and precision," Measson adds, "I then moved to four- and five-star hotels where I learned more about management and production."
From the Oak Room in London (two Michelin stars) toL'Auberge de Cimes, Lyon (three Michelin stars) Measson has followed his own rising star. "Back in the early days of my career, we didn't have Food Network or Internet. You would follow the Michelin-star chef and spend a year at one place, then you would be sent somewhere else for another year. Some chefs were nicer than othersâ€¦" Measson says with his impeccably polite demeanor.
"My earliest mentor was Chef Regis Marcon, the owner of L'Auberge des Cimes," Christophe reminisces in his accented English, "He really taught me to respect products and people; he would never shout at you or make you feel awkward, yet was commanding respect.
"Nowadays, there is so much talent. I try to go to New York twice a year for inspiration. There are lots of young pastry chefs emerging right now," Christophe mentions, without shining the spotlight on himself. "Of course Anne [Yarymowich], my present chef, she is a mentor figure to me. She really gave me a chance to prove myself; her guidance and advice are priceless as she has a really good sense of design and esthetic," Measson continues, yet again making me aware that he is happy to shine, but within the "galactic" team that he guides, much like an art director.
"At the AGO, we focus on simplicity. We try to let the produce shine," finishes Christophe Measson, just like an artist with the last stroke of the brush.