Christophe Domange: «What I envy Italians for in pastry-making? Panettone»

The director of L’École Valrhona in Tain L’Hermitage tells us about his passion for the great Italian cake and for Italian gelato

07-01-2019

«It’s all a question of taste». The difference between Italian and French pastry-making, these days, «is no longer a matter of technique, because Italian pastry-makers these days are very skilled. A proof of this is given by the performance of the Italian team in the World Pastry Cup». These are the words of Christophe Domange, 43, director of L’École Valrhona in Tain L’Hermitage, founded in 1989 by Frédéric Bau and Paul Bernard Bret.

Domange, winner of the 2018 Gelato World Cup with the French team, after attending catering school in Challes-les-Eaux worked for six years at the Union League Café, a French brasserie in New Haven, in Connecticut. Back in France, he became passionate about chocolate and started to study with a Mof of chocolate – Mof stands for “Meilleur Ouvrier de France”, a role that has no equivalent in Italy and a title you get after passing a series of exams.

He continued acquiring experience with Patrick Chevallot, pastry-making Mof and patron at Maison Chevallot in Val d’Isère. Today, after two years in Spain with Marc Balaguer FabraDomange is trying to become a Mof himself. «It would be a great personal achievement because it’s an exclusive title, the equivalent of a higher professional diploma given by the most prominent Mofs. However – Domange says – you need to study hard to make it».

As a Frenchman, is there anything you envy Italians for in pastry-making, and, on the contrary, is there anything Italian professionals must still perfect?
«Panettone. I made my first attempt at this baked product in Spain with Oriol Balaguer [winner in 2017 of the Spanish contest for the best artisanal panettone] who acquired his panettone techniques in Italy. Then, when I arrived at L’École Valrhona, I continued my training with the Morandins when they came as consultants. The French are still superior when it comes to chocolate-making and confiserie».

Aside from panettone, what’s your favourite Italian dessert?
«Gelato. I first approached it professionally five or six years ago when I attended the courses at the Carpigiani University thanks to the advice of Paolo Brunelli and Andrea Bandiera. In France, with gelatos, we focus on flavour, while in Italy there’s a strong attention to technology and texture, two pillars. This is why I’m working on a course at L’École Valrhona that joins Italian technology in gelato-making with chocolate-making».

What do you think of your role as director of L’École Valrhona?
«It’s certainly very prestigious for my career to have this role, which I share with another pastry-chef. But at the same time it’s important to give a contribution in spreading the pastry-making culture and, in this case, whether you’re the director of the School or not, it makes little difference».

Are you experiencing in French pastry making the same health-oriented debate that in Italy is aiming to decrease the use of refined sugars?
«Yes, the first to create awareness in the industry was Frédéric Bau with his philosophy of the “reasonable sweet”. However, though not officially, all our work in designing recipes at L’École Valrhona tends to decrease the use of fats and sugars».

What’s your approach to this theme?
«Personally, I’m working on gluten-free and lactose-free desserts, to give an alternative to those who, like my wife, have health issues».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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