Interview: Hôtel Byblos’ Pastry Chef Geoffrey Turpin on bold flavours and his favourite brioche

On the French Riviera, legendary Saint-Tropez property Hôtel Byblos has appointed a new Head Pastry Chef – the Parisian Geoffrey Turpin. A true perfectionist with a passion for the French pastry classics, Turpin specialises in using the fruits and herbs from Byblos’ vegetable garden to create desserts that are as beautiful as they taste.

The chef sat down with Supper to talk about his love of bold flavours, and why he can’t resist Cyril Lignac’s Brioche des Rois. 

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When did you first fall in love with cooking?
I grew up in a family where my mother and grandmother cooked a lot, and I would cook with them also. I can recall my grandmother’s yoghurt cake and coffee log: coffee has since become one of my favourite ingredients in baking. In my profession, I first chose to work in the kitchen (as a cook) before moving into pastry. It requires more preparation time beforehand, and less last minute cooking, which I prefer. 

How would you describe your culinary style?
In pastry and cooking, I like the classics of French cuisine such as beef bourguignon, pot au feu, blanquette de veau, opera or coffee eclairs. I like things that are simple, efficient, balanced and well executed. In pastry, what I like is to reinvent classics – to add my personal touch, modify a texture, a shape or add a new taste. I like strong, bold flavours like lemon or coffee, and I use them to reinvent traditional dishes, transforming a lemon meringue pie into an ice cream, for example. 

Congratulations on your new role at Hôtel Byblos. How would you describe your culinary vision for the venue?
My vision is to make good desserts with honest tastes – and not too much sugar! 

Do you have a favourite pastry dish on the menu at Hôtel Byblos?
I like all the desserts on the menu but the one that stands out is the sweet Petit Farci because it’s a surprising dessert! We use ingredients from the vegetable garden, and this dessert truly represents the flavours of the south.

What inspires you?
I am often inspired by a taste, a shape or a combination of flavours. For me, the creation of a dessert always starts with the taste. Focusing on an ingredient is also a great source of inspiration: in a fruit for example, I like to use 100% of the ingredient – the flesh, the juice and the skin, because each of these aspects brings something to the dessert. On a daily basis, I take inspiration from things I have tasted, from the slightly unexpected associations of flavours, from the shapes and colours that surround me. Hotel Byblos’ vegetable garden is a huge source of inspiration for my work here, as it’s full of fresh produce and is only a few metres from our kitchens. It is a precious and very inspiring tool as a pastry chef, to have quality and seasonal ingredients.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?
The most important lesson is that you have to remain humble. Without a team, you can do nothing and you are nothing.

Which chefs have inspired you?
I have a lot of admiration for Christophe Felder, who I was lucky enough to work with. He is also my mentor. Also French chefs such as Benoit Couvrand, Camille Lesecq and Cyril Lignac; they’ve all had an impact on me throughout my career as a pastry chef. My wife is a pastry chef too and I have a lot of respect for her work – we had the chance to work together for a few years in Paris. Now she’s often the one who tastes my creations first, her criticism is constructive. 

What is your approach to sustainability in your cooking?
We try not to waste too much. To give you an example, we make our own pastries with the leftover dough and use it as fermented dough to make other pastries.

What is your favourite pastry dish, and who cooks it?
Cyril Lignac’s brioche des rois is one of my favourite desserts: it is delicious, soft and melt-in-the-mouth with a real buttery taste – everything you would expect from a brioche.