Vivan Nguyen is living the dream as a top pastry chef in Paris, hand-crafting delicious croissants, cakes, macaroons and mouthwatering tarts for La Cuisine Paris. In this inspiring interview, she explains why baking is the most soothing art-form and shares her secret to realising her wildest cooking dreams.
It’s soothing, it’s a form of art. It’s me and the ingredients, we have a quiet time and I can push on being creative.
What’s your favourite dessert to bake?
I like to bake everything! I like working on a plate and deconstructing traditional desserts.
Can you tell us how you became a patisserie chef?
Since I had no experience, no network in the food and beverage sector, I made samples of desserts and went to see the chefs from the list of restaurants I wanted to work for.
I started doing an internship in a restaurant in Shanghai for a couple of months, then decided to give it a longer shot in a fine dining restaurant. I stayed a year, got an offer to go to Hong Kong, turned it down, then went back to Paris to take the CAP Patissier Test, and continued working for pastry shops and restaurants.
Why did you decide to change careers to become a pastry chef?
Out of passion. Being a Key Account Manager, my previous job, didn’t fit me. The passion was so strong I had to try!
What have been the greatest challenges in your career?
The biggest challenge is to start over – no more social life: working hours are crazy and money was very little when I started. It’s an emotional marathon.
I had to learn fast in order to keep up in Shanghai: the techniques, kitchen languages, and the hierarchy. My chefs and managers were much younger than me sometimes. Since I had some experience in business and management before, I had to accept the fact that the mindset is very different from the corporate world. Chefs are good at cooking, baking…not so much in terms of leadership and managing their team.
Why do you enjoy working at La Cuisine Paris?
Teaching and passing on the knowledge to different types of personalities is a great challenge – seeing the students feeling motivated and confident to try at home is a victory! La Cuisine Paris is a healthy environment to work in, completely different from the difficulties of kitchen life, including working hours and pressure.
Are you ‘living the dream’ as a pastry chef in Paris?
I’m working on it! I am good today, after few years in the field I know which type of kitchen I feel comfortable and efficient in. One step at a time – I have no regrets on shifting my career.