Interview: Daniel Frazer

Baker Daniel Frazer tells us about his life in pastry. Interview by Sam Bradley, with illustrations by Bethan Woollvin and Harriet Hobday.

What’s a day in the life of a pastry chef like?

So, I start at six in the morning, when we do our daily bake, our croissants and pain au chocolat, things like that. Then we get decorating, so we’ll do our different cakes for our cake display, which takes up the first few hours of the day. We’ll go from our large cakes – carrot, apple and vanilla, chocolate fondant cake, big cakes like that- – and then we’ll do our mini cakes, so we have a selection of ten to fifteen cakes a day. Then we’ll start baking for the next day, we always bake one day ahead. We’ll start at six or seven and finish at five o’ clock. It’s a long day. It can be tiring, but it’s enjoyable and I love it. 

Because you’re constantly trying it, testing it, by the end of the day you just want something really salty when you get home. The last thing you wanna do when you get home is eat desserts.

Why did you want to become a pastry chef?

I’ve ben a chef for about nine years, and a pastry chef for about four. I grew up in Manchester, and I started working in a restaurant in a hotel. I got really into baking bread, I was baking loads in the hotel and decided that this was want I wanted to do full time. I went to work for Home Sweet Home, and I worked with a woman named Charlotte [O’ Toole, of Bakearama], and that was when started to learn about decorating and things like that. Since then I’ve not gone back to savoury, I’m a full-on pastry man.

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What’s ‘cutting edge’ in the pastry world?

Nowadays so many people are putting their own take on things. There’s a patissiere called Dominic Ansell who started the cruffin (it’s a muffin inside a croissant). And cronuts. People are going crazy for stuff like that.

I went to Paris a few years ago, and there’s this café called Broken Biscuits there. The stuff they were doing was like, ‘whoa’. If I had my own place then that would be the kind of things I would like to do.

Have you got a favourite pastry item?

I love a tart! From fruit, chocolate, one with a crumble kind of topping or something like a bakewell tart. I also like a good carrot cake with nice cream cheese frosting.

What’s your favourite flavour to work with?

I’m a big fan of chocolate, so I like to see what kind of things work with chocolate – different flavour combinations, things like that. Since working at Ottolenghi, we’ve done rosemary with chocolate – we made a ganache for the tart with cream that’s been infused with rosemary and orange – I thought that was really nice. And halva tastes so good with chocolate. We did that in a brownie form, delicious.

Would you open your own bakery?

My dream is to open my own place one day, but I’ve got so much to learn still. I’ve been with Ottolenghi for a year now but I’m still learning so much. Eventually I would like to open my own place, just somewhere small.

Had any baking disasters?

I once did a big batch of cheesecakes – about 60. They came out looking a bit strange so I cut into one and tried it, and it wasn’t very nice at all. I forgot sugar, so it was just a kind of warm, eggy, creamy cheesecake. I had to do it all again, I think it was my last job of the day as well – I wasn’t happy!

Did you ever have a moment of baking conversion?

The first load of bread that actually worked, that felt really good. It came out right, nothing went wrong, perfect. That was a really good feeling.