Executive Pastry Chef at Pan Pacific London, Fransesco Mannino has taken his sweet tooth and turned it into serious success. We caught up with him to talk pursuing passions, staying unique and all things patisserie
Francesco will oversee pastry across all aspects of the luxury hotel and its six F&B outlets. He will be responsible for the seasonally changing afternoon teas at The Orchid Lounge, the revolving, seasonal menu at pâtisserie SHIOK!, and desserts at the Southeast Asian signature restaurant Straits Kitchen, along with in-room dining and banqueting.
Francesco has a really fresh and fun approach to patisserie and is bringing exciting new fusion desserts, collections and flavours to Pan Pacific London – drawing on his Italian heritage as well as his time and experience in Asia, in line with the hotel’s Singaporean roots. An interesting combo.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I’ve always been passionate about food and I also love photography, so becoming a pastry chef was something I always wanted to do really and has enabled me to combine cooking techniques with artistic flair, which is important to me. I grew up in Italy with my family and being surrounded by wonderful meals, made with love which definitely influenced me and my love of cooking too.
I have memories of my grandmother cooking and passing on her recipes and tips and tricks to me. Spending time in Asia later in life also influenced me. Pursuing my passion has also given me the opportunity to travel the world, which has been really exciting and taught me a lot.
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
I received professional training in a variety of prestigious schools across Japan, the UK and France including Bon Bon chocolat, Ecole Valrhona in Tokyo, Ecole Bellouet Conseil in Paris and achieved NVQ Level 3 Patisserie at WestMinster Kingsway College in London.
I’ve also worked in pastry kitchens across the globe in hotels including The Connaught, The Lanesborough, Claridge’s and The Langham Shenzen, opened my own bakery in Seoul which I ran with my wife and have written my own cookbook Modern Italian Desserts, which I’m very proud of. I’m delighted to be back in a hotel kitchen at Pan Pacific London and to be overseeing pastry across the hotel from desserts, afternoon teas to banqueting and catering for large scale events.
What can guests expect from the pastries at Pan Pacific London?
Guests can expect delicious and unique flavour combinations and beautifully, intricately crafted patisserie, always with a special Asian twist in homage to Pan Pacific London’s Singaporean roots.
What’s your favourite autumn ingredient?
It’s hard to say as it depends on what I’m making but I love soy sauce as a fantastic addition to caramel. It brings a rich, umami flavour while still maintaining the rich indulgence of traditional caramel. All you need to do is stir in a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce to your caramel as it cools.
Do you have an all-time favourite dessert?
It’s hard to choose a favourite but I love classic desserts like Mille-feuille but also love the minimalist and slick style of Asian patisserie, so like to draw inspiration from both to create my own modern takes. I also think it depends on the season and I like fresh and fruity desserts in summer and richer warmer desserts in winter.
However, I do love using herbs and teas in my baking, as it brings such a unique, refreshing flavour to my creations. If you’re baking with tea, it’s important to use highly aromatic teas such as oolong and chamomile to get a really vibrant flavour.
Do you have any culinary role models?
French pastry chef and chocolatier Pierre Hermé, for me, is one of the fathers of modern pâtisserie. He reinvented and revolutionised macarons and also created memorable and unique flavour combinations such as Ispahan (raspberry, rose and lychee). What’s more, he invented the delicious 2000 feuille which is a millefeuille with the addition of crunchy praline feuillatine.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
Work hard, be open to opportunities and keep learning. I have learnt that hard work really does pay off but you have to be willing to learn and take opportunities by the horns.
I would also say that it’s great to start off in smaller kitchens where you are really hands on and learn the basics and then the intricacies before taking that skill to bigger kitchens where you can also learn about pace and delivering the highest of quality on mass. That would be advice to young and aspiring chefs and bakers.
Describe your cooking style in three words
I would describe my culinary style as clean, sober and flavourful.
What’s next on the cards?
I’m really looking forward to introducing a new festive collection of desserts to SHIOK!, the elegant patisserie at Pan Pacific London, and putting my own stamp on the already stellar offering there.
My new festive afternoon tea collection will also be available in The Orchid Lounge from November, so I’m looking forward to our guests being able to try my new creations throughout the festive period and beyond.