Chef Smita Grosse

Grand Hyatt Hong Kong Announces Its First Female Executive Pastry Chef

In an industry overwhelmingly dominated by men, Smita Grosse has smashed through the (sugar) glass ceiling to be selected as the first female Executive Pastry Chef for Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.

Helming a team of 30, multi-award winning Grosse is responsible for the breads, pastries and desserts for all 11 of the hotel’s restaurants and bars as well as some 200 events held every month within and outside the hotel.

Grosse grew up on the island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean in a household where her father loved to experiment while cooking. While studying at the Hotel School of Mauritius, Grosse spent two years interning at One&Only Le Saint Géran, after which she was immediately snapped up as a pastry commis. From there, Grosse rose through the pastry chef ranks at The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, Shangri-La Hotel Dubai, Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Galaxy Macau and Fairmont Singapore before becoming Executive Pastry Chef for the first time in 2017 at Hotel Indonesia Kempinksi Jakarta.

When looking to move on, Grosse received three offers from hotels around the world but decided Grand Hyatt Hong Kong would be the best fit. “I had always wanted to work in Hong Kong and my mentor—whose opinion I greatly respect—said that Grand Hyatt Hong Kong would be the best place to showcase my skills.” Grosse’s ambitions in her new role are simple and succinct: “I want to be one of the best pastry chefs in Hong Kong.”

Since joining Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, Grosse has spent a considerable amount of time researching the Hong Kong palate and the flavours that local people are partial to. “Guests here like mango, Earl Grey tea, green tea, lemon. They like flavours that are balanced and not too sweet. They prefer sponge textures to anything too moussy. They also like cakes that are colourful and look good in photos.”

Grosse regularly posts her sweets on Instagram (@smiit4u) and is well aware that for the next generation of guests and customers, how a culinary creation looks is just as important as how it tastes. “Today, being a pastry chef is not just about making delicious cakes. They have to also look great and be perfectly finished. They have to be Instagrammable.”

chef Smita Grosse exquisite culinary creations

Above: Some of Grosse’s exquisite culinary creations, exclusively available at Chocolatier. Particularly popular is the ‘Lemon’—whipped yuzu ganache and lemon and mint marmalade encased in white chocolate on a base of lemon Breton biscuit. And the ‘Forbidden Apple’ comprising layers of sponge, cheesecake, apple mousse and calamansi chiboust (cream).

With the proliferation of global social media, Grosse says that culinary expectations are forever rising and that cake creations need to be more and more creative. “People don’t just ask for a chocolate cake anymore; they might just tell you the theme is ‘starry night’ or ‘enchanted garden’ and ask you to dream up something accordingly.” And guests are becoming more and more demanding. “Recently, we had to come up with anniversary cakes that had to be relatively healthy, incorporate a blend of both Chinese and Western ingredients and look beautiful!”

While ‘healthy cakes’ may seem like an oxymoron, customers are demanding cakes that incorporate less fat and sugar, but taste every bit as sinful. And with gluten intolerance on the rise, Grosse has created two gluten-free cakes that everyone can enjoy; the ‘Versailles’ comprising moist chocolate cake, whipped organic chocolate and popping candy and the ‘Douceur Marron’ featuring chestnut cake, whipped vanilla ganache, pear compote and hazelnut crunch. She is also working on new pralines incorporating organic, vegan chocolate.

When asked to cite a dessert she is particularly proud of, Grosse mentions one they crafted recently for a corporate client. “We were asked to design 550 desserts around a circus theme so we constructed a hot dog with brioche as the ‘bun’, chocolate ice cream as the ‘sausage’, mango jelly as ‘cheese’, custard as ‘mayo’ and raspberry sauce as ‘ketchup’. Beside it was a pile of ‘fries’ made from toasted pound cake and a Coca-Cola bottle filled with Jack Daniel’s flavoured jello.

“That’s why I love working for Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. I’m given the freedom to invent and I get to create something new every day.”

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