Marc Balaguer: the fast rise of a young prodigy
Marc Balaguer, who is 25 years old and head of the Escribà pastry academy in Barcelona, recently became Les vergers Boiron’s youngest Brand Ambassador ever.
Marc, at 25, you’re an established pastry and dessert Chef and have already represented Spain in a World Cup competition. Where does this passion and drive come from?
I think my parents have a lot to do with it. My mother is a great cook and I spent a lot of my childhood with her in the kitchen, watching closely what she did. When I started cooking, very early on, I particularly enjoyed making desserts, which was a great way of sharing good feelings with people. As for my need to compete, I think that comes from my father, who has made engines for racing motorbikes for a long time, where you have to be accurate and innovative. Today, he’s doing advanced work on engine electronics. So, I guess that’s why I am passionate about competing and avant-garde techniques such as molecular cooking.
When did you actually begin your training as a professional cook?
I first trained at a hotel school in Cambrils, near Tarragona, and then decided to become a pastry chef because I loved the precision it required. I was very lucky, from then on, working with world-class pastry chefs such as Oriol Balaguer (no relation, despite the same family name), Carlès Mampel (Bubo) and Hans Ovando, one of the best chocolate chefs in the world. I also worked with Michelin-starred chefs Jeroni Castell and Martin Lippo and at the Meridien hotel in Calafel, where I became Pastry Chef. Joan Llaberia, who has become a great friend and who gave me first-hand experience in his gastronomic and bistronomic restaurants, pushed me to enter my first pastry competition in Barcelona. I won the Catalan competition and went on to win the national prize in Valencia in 2015. I loved the ambiance of the competition and that’s how I became addicted, I have to admit.
I guess then that the next step was to go international?
Well, I didn’t think so then, but things did indeed happen very fast. For my Spanish prize, I was given a weeklong course at the Académie des Chefs DGF, and then Christophe Maudieu, much to my surprise, asked me to be part of the Spanish team at the Mondial des Arts Sucrés in Paris. My partner Alicia Lammersdof and I came fifth in degustation and I think we would have done well in creativity, but my 80-petal sugar rose came crashing down when French President François Hollande came by our stand! We still finished in the top 10 and it was a great experience.
In the spring, you became the Brand Ambassador for Les vergers Boiron in Spain. How does that fit in with your activity as a high-level competitor?
This is really complementary to competing because I work live in front of an audience and I am under pressure to get it right. I am also learning to adapt to different ways of cooking and baking in different contexts. For example, pastry shop bakers are looking for consistency, balance and efficient ways of making large amounts of pastries. My job is to give them technical tips for streamlining their workflow and improve quality, as well as finding better ways to give longer shelf life to their pastries. Restaurant chefs, who mainly make creative plated desserts, are looking for new flavors, ingredients and innovative ideas, including very sophisticated ways of creating new textures and visual effects. With Les vergers Boiron products, I can cater to all these needs and bring them the added value they are looking for. And, of course, this sharpens my own skills!
So, what’s next?
Currently, I am Director at Escribà, a pastry and dessert school in Barcelona, which gives me great experience in communicating and teaching pastry techniques, but also the time to prepare for my next challenge, La Coppa del mondo della Gelateria, to be held in Rimini in January, 2018. I’ve been asked to compete in ice sculpting, which is very different from anything I’ve done before, including sugar or chocolate sculpting. You have to think in 3D and my main tool, believe it or not, is a chainsaw!