As a veteran of over 20 years in the cooking game, David Piquard knows how to serve carefully crafted, high-quality pastry to customers of all nationalities and tastes. Hailing from eastern France, he has taken his culinary talents to the United States where he currently works as the executive chef for Gaby et Jules in Pittsburgh. We had the opportunity to ask David about his accomplishments as an international chef and culinary pioneer, as well as his plans for the future.
What kind of creative ventures and projects do you get to work on as the chief creative at Gaby et Jules?
David Piquard: As the Co-Founder and Chief Creative, I like to challenge myself and my team by making the impossible become possible. I like to push the limits. I especially enjoy working with sugar sculpting and decor. I love attention to fine detail and the precision that is required.
How have your work and food been received thus far among consumers since moving to Pittsburgh?
David: The food industry in Pittsburgh has undergone a food revolution that is still on-going today. Many of our guests at Gaby et Jules have travelled the world and therefore have a sincere appreciation for fine pastry. They understand our mission at Gaby et Jules and they are thrilled to have world-class luxury pastry at their door step. Pittsburgh is undergoing a transformation and is becoming a food destination.
While in France, what were some of your proudest moments as a chef?
David: Given my love of pastry, I decided to leave the culinary kitchen for the pastry kitchen, or “lab” as we say in France. I was recruited by a well-known pastry house in Bordeaux to develop and roll-out authentic French macarons for 30 stores. To see the success of the macaron line, was to me, an affirmation that pastry is where I need to be.
What about your work with pastry distinguished you from your peers and earned you recognition while in executive chef training at Lycée des Métiers de Hôtellerie Raymond Mondon?
David: Early in my training, I put in extra hours to teach myself more about the fascinating world of pastry. I stayed after classes to self-teach myself because I wanted to learn more. Pastry became my passion.
How has your understanding of what makes a great chef changed over your 20-plus years in the industry?
David: A great chef needs to remain humble and open-minded. There is always something to learn and to discover. It is important to not rest on one’s laurels.
You describe yourself as a chef who loves not only food, but nature as well. Have your efforts and interest in becoming closer with the natural world changed your work as a chef?
David: Last November (2016), I was selected by Cacao-Barry to participate a visit to a cacao plantation in Peru as a part of the Cacao-Collective Program. It was life-changing to be so close to a premium, luxury product in its natural state. Now, when I work with single-source cacao bean, I appreciate it even more. Nature gives me a peaceful energy that allows me to focus better and respect what it has to offer. The scents and shapes inspire me for future creations.
Are there any other restaurant or cooking-related ventures you would like to pursue in the near future?
David: Everyday, I receive requests from guests for pastry classes. The truth is that I love to teach and share my passion for pastry with others. The only problem is that there is not enough time currently in my production schedule to allow me to pursue my passion for teaching, but it’s in the works. If the classes are successful why not open a French pastry school?
Other than working with pastry, do you have any other favorite types of dish you like to prepare? What do you enjoy about cooking this type of dish?
David: As the Executive Chef at Paris 66, I love doing all of the French comfort food classics. There is nothing trendy about everyday French cuisine but it’s like being with an old friend that you never get tired of seeing. I love the classics: Coq Au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, French Onion soup, Escargot. I also enjoy developing tasting menus for the Tour de France series which is a culinary journey to various terroir regions of France. There are so many beautiful regions to highlight – from the food to the wine to the pastries. I enjoy taking the guests on this journey to my native France.