Interview with Greg Hook

Greg Hook | Vancouver

Vancouver is home to some of the best pastry chefs in the world, many have worked for the top chefs and restaurants around the world as well as around the city. Star Pastry Chefs is a series of Interviews with some of the top chefs in and around Vancouver, within the interview each chef is to prepare or finish off three of his/her signature desserts.

Greg is recognized as one of Vancouver’s earliest gourmet chocolatiers. After studying cooking in London, England and the intricacies of chocolate at Callebaut College in Belgium and the Ecole du Grand Chocolat in France, Greg Hook opened his Kitsilano shop Chocolate Arts in 1989. To this day, Chocolate Arts is devoted to creating unique chocolate products emphasizing local and organically grown ingredients. At the shop, small batches of artisanal chocolates are created each day using the best raw chocolate from producers in Belgium and France, many of which are single origin chocolates. Fillings never include colourings, additives, or artificial flavours and all purees, concentrates, essences, most dried fruits and flavoured alcohols are house-made. Natural west coast flavours like wild blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, hazelnuts and pears are some of delicious temptations found at Chocolate Art. Learn more about Greg by watching his presentation he gave at Food Talks this past October.

How did you end up in getting into Chocolate?

Chocolate selected me, Chocolate Arts started part time while I was doing pastry at a hotel. Five years later it was meant to be. It’s been 22 years now that I have been doing chocolate.

Did you always want to be a pastry chef?

I wanted to serve something food related, pastry attracts a different mindset that not necessarily all cooks have. I was attracted to pastry to know it all, precision is key.

Do you follow or apply a specific food design?

As a general basis for desserts, my mantra is hot, cold, smooth and crunchy. I would generally try to apply these sorts of things. I generally never mix two flavours, I like to keep it simple and true flavours. Taste them to complement and contrast.

Where do you get inspiration?

From all over, sometimes it’s just eating two things together sometimes it’s just a sound. Sometimes it is watching the show “Mind of a Chef” with David Cheng on PBS. I like riffing on themes.

How do you start your day?

With a strong cup of coffee. I come to work and get clear on my day, get grounded and go throughout the day.

Chocolates or Pastries which came first?

Pastry came first and then the chocolates.

What is the secret to owning a chocolate shop for 20+ years?

Truthfully being crazy. It’s a lot of hard work all the time. When you think just when you want to take a break, you are working on molds for Christmas or what-ever there is always something and what’s the next thing. Serving Customers faster and how we can improve the texture of something.

The 1st Dessert:

Alto El Sol Mousse

Alto El Sol Mousse

Alto El Sol Mousse

What is in the dessert?

Alto El Sol

Single plantation with lemon

-chocolate mousse

– lemon crème

– With small amount of whipped cream

– Flourless chocolate cake

What was your inspiration behind this dessert?

I love lemon with the Alto El Sol chocolate as it was the best than any other chocolate I have used.

Is there a pastry chef or two that inspire you?

Pierre Herme – Parisian pastry guy, innovator

Patrick Roger (Paris)

Which Pastry Confectionary Tradeshows are your favourite and where are they held?

European –bakery related in Paris

The 2nd Dessert:

Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich

Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich

What is in the dessert?

Flourless chocolate cookie

Chocolate ice cream

Assorted geles –depending on the season

What was your inspiration behind this dessert?

We were thinking chocolate ice cream and women liking red wine and it was for moms.

Describe your style of Chocolates or pastries at Chocolate Arts?

Whatever we create – clean flavours, simple.

Have you taken part in any pastry or chocolate competitions?

Not for a long time. I am not good at playing by the rules, so I couldn’t play the game for competitions.

The 3rd Dessert:

Peanut Butter Bar

Peanut Butter Bar

What is in the dessert?

70% Equflteur chocolate

Peanut butter and milk chocolate on bottom and Feuiclitine on bottom

Chocolate mousse on top

Chocolate coated outside

Garnished with peanuts

What was your inspiration behind this dessert?

I am a Canadian boy from Saskatchewan who grew up on peanut butter. You are getting the beautiful organic Valencia peanut butter.

What are your favourite chocolate shops in the world (outside of your own) ?

  • Patrick Roger (Paris)
  • Jean Paul Hevin (Paris)
  • Recchiuti (San Francisco)

What are your favourite cities in the world for pastries?

  • Paris
  • Brussels

What are your favourite savoury dishes?

  • Asian influenced – Thai Curry
  • Laksa with fresh seafood, rice noodles and shrimp paste

What are your travelling food favourites?

Food in Trinidad

The 4th Dessert:

Chocolate Pot de Crème

Chocolate Pot de Crème

What is in the dessert?

75% Tanzanie Single Origin

Ginger whipped cream

Cocoa nib lace garnish

What was your inspiration behind this dessert?

The idea of crème brulee texture and creamy pudding without the sugary top.

How many people are in your chocolate kitchen? And tell me about your team.

5 now and seasonally increases to 8 for chocolates with a couple of people in pastry.

If you weren’t a pastry chef what do you think you’d be doing?

Probably be a carpenter

Stay tuned for the next chef in the Star Pastry Chef series.

By: Richard Wolak