Helen Vass: pastry chef on the rise

Helen Vass is one of those people who took a chance on a new career and has ended up succeeding – big time. Just three years ago, the former business administrator ditched her 9am-5pm job to retrain as a pastry chef, and now she’s working with some of the biggest and brightest in the industry. Watch out world, this Glaswegian is on a mission.

A Day in the Life of Helen Vass

When did you get into baking and cooking in a big way?

I first got into baking when I was around 10 years old. It was something I always did in the house with my mum – she was a good baker, so from there it all began!.

Have you always worked in the food industry?

I only started working in the hospitality industry towards the end of 2013. Before that I worked in administration. In September 2013, I went to college to study patisserie, and completed my course in May 2014.

Helen Vass Pastry Chef

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Being able to change career and do something I love.

Tell us about any new or interesting projects you’re working on right now?

I have some projects up my sleeve which I hope will materialise in 2016, but I don’t want to tempt fate by revealing them in case they don’t happen.

What do you love most about your job?

The thing I love most about being a pastry chef is making people happy with my sweet creations. Dessert is always the way you end a meal, so I want people to leave on a happy note with a lasting memory.

Who’s the most interesting person you’ve worked with or project you’ve collaborated on?

One of my favourite people to have worked with and be taught by is 2011 World Champion pastry chef, Jordi Bordas. I used to be a regular customer at his patisserie and ended up doing some work experience with him. I also did a training course with him a couple of months ago. He is an inspiration, and one of the most humble and down to earth pastry chefs I know.

Helen Vass Behind the Scenes with Rachel Khoo

What’s your absolute favourite recipe to make?

I love making complex entremets that combine different flavours, textures and colours in one bite! My favourite is a forest fruit, mascarpone and pistachio entremet.

You previously lived and worked in Barcelona. How much has that influenced the way you cook today?

I lived in Barcelona for seven years in total, over two separate periods, and it’s definitely the place that has influenced my cooking. I would definitely say that the patisserie scene in Catalonia has influenced me in a big way. There are some really talented pastry chefs in Barcelona who are leading the way with their bright, modern patisserie, which is one of my main influences at the moment in my work.

Best Kept Secrets

I khoollect a few…

I definitely collect pastry equipment. My house is full of it.

What’s your favourite item in your #khoollection?

My thermomix. I use it all the time and love it. A thermomix is a kitchen gadget that cooks, chops, whisks… does everything. This means I can do two things at once without worrying that something is going to burn.

What’s your favourite food?

Any Valrhona chocolate. Especially the caramelia and dulcey versions. The dulcey chocolate is just like a posh caramac bar but so much better. It’s a caramelised white chocolate, and it’s a dream to work with.

Who’s your #khoollectcrush?

At the moment, the pastry chef who is inspiring me is Antonio Bachour. He’s based in Miami, and his work is inspirational. It’s full of colour, precision and is so beautiful – it’s art on a plate.

Urban Favourites

Where do you call home?

I’ve been back living in Glasgow for around eight months now, but I still feel that Barcelona’s my home as it’s where I’ve spent most of my adult life. I try and get back to Barcelona every couple of months to catch up with friends and get some pastry inspiration.

What do you love most about it?

Barcelona is a city which has everything you need in the one place. The mountains are close by, it has the beach and the countryside all in the one area.

Your favourite place for coffee?

In Barcelona, I love going to Pudding. In Glasgow, I love Kember & Jones.

Best spot for dinner?

One of my favourite restaurants in Barcelona is La Flauta, which specialises in tapas. In Glasgow, I would have to say Number 16 Restaurant because that’s where I work. It’s a small, cosy restaurant with modern Scottish food.

Where do you go to pick up fresh produce?

In Barcelona, the best place to visit is La Boqueria market. In Glasgow, I like to go to Whole Foods when I get the chance.

How do you spend a lazy Sunday?

My perfect Sunday would be staying in bed watching TV, then lunch with some friends followed by an afternoon siesta.

Favourite green space or park?

In Glasgow, I love going to Mugdock country park, just 10 minutes up the road from where I live. In Barcelona, one of my favourite parks is Parc Guëll. This is the Gaudi Park which is at the top of the city and has the most incredible panoramic views of Barcelona.

If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

I would love to live in London for a while as it’s the city where opportunities are endless.

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