I met the absolutely delightful Melanie Smith, Global Pastry Chef at FFI (Food Fund International) at the Pink Truffle Making Class at The Meat Co (read all about it here).
Chef Melanie arguably has the sweetest job in the world! As the Global Pastry Chef for all the restaurant brands under the FFI umbrella, Melanie has a tightly packed schedule involving travelling countries and cooking up dessert masterpieces with her team.
Read on about Chef Melanie’s enviably sweet journey (and she has even shared a very special recipe for Mulled Wine with us for Christmas!).
Please tell us how you fell in love with baking, and how you turned it into a career.
For as long as I can remember I used to make cakes at home. The first one a very deadly hard sponge cake at the age of 7, from all reports. I don’t remember the cake but I do remember my mum saying how lovely it was.. (when it was quite obvious it was not 🙂
Along a little bit further…. was at the end of my high school years and was worried that all my friends had sorted a clear career path , and me still no idea. I was making a cake at the time sharing my concerns and my mother had to point out that I was always making cakes and should become a pastry chef. Because the obvious answers sometimes need to be pointed out!!!! And that was that, I can definitely recommend taking something that you love doing, and making a career out of it.
You have an enviable job at FFI! Please tell us more on what you get up to.
I have the utmost privilege of developing the pastry chefs, recipes and desserts for all the FFI Brands. Across Dubai, Abu Dhabi , Kuwait, Bahrain & London. I am going to leave it at that otherwise I will sound like I am gloating . All I will say is that I regularly pinch myself at just how lucky and blessed I am to be able to have this position.
If you had to pick just one absolute favorite item you have created for FFI, what would it be and why?
It would have to be the Pink dessert in October of this year for UAE’s The Meat Co. FFI very generously made it possible to raise over AED 35000 for the Pink Polo charity. (Read more about it here).
What are your biggest influences when creating new recipes and flavor combinations?
- The most important by far, is to ensure the dessert is not too sweet. You will find that a “moreish” dessert will never be too sweet, and that’s what I aim for. In my opinion, it also enhances/showcases the flavors/ingredients of the dessert better.
- When possible, use seasonal fruit. Although most fruit in Dubai is available just about all year round, there are times when a certain fruits are at their best.
Name 3 kitchen ingredients you cannot live without.
Lemons, vanilla beans, good quality chocolate. That was very hard to narrow down to three!!!
What do you have in store for Christmas?
We are planning a Christmas ginger bread house making classes , which will be just so much fun.
The only rule that I have during the gingerbread house construction is that for every piece of candy that goes on the house, one must be consumed to ensure the highest quality control (pretty much an excuse to be able to eat as many candies as possible, and for them not to count !!!!)
Please share a quick and easy recipe with us for Christmas!
The easiest way to enjoy all the tastes of Christmas is warm wine in a glass. This is by far and above the easiest Christmas recipe that all can follow and enjoy. Best consumed with friends and loved ones.
Mulled Wine (or non-alcoholic grape!) Recipe
- 1 bottle of red grape
- 3 table spoons of brown sugar (you can add more to taste if you prefer sweeter )
- ½ cinnamon stick
- ½ vanilla pod , sliced and deseeded
- 250ml orange juice
- ¼ cup of brandy or rum
- 1 whole orange but in half
- 1 lemon cut in half
- 4 piece star anise
- 3 piece cardamom
- 2 piece black pepper corn
Place all ingredients on a low flame, slowly simmer for 2 mins.
Remove the lemons and oranges & spices.
Serve warm in a glass & enjoy!