Q&A with Laura Petersen, an extremely talented Head Pastry Chef at the award-winning Salt Room restaurant in Brighton
When did you decide you wanted to be a pastry chef?
I actually didn’t know straight away that being a pastry chef was what I wanted to do. I started an art and design course at college as my other passion is fashion and qualified with a merit. After college I took a gap year and during this year the tuition fees went up which gave me second thoughts, I also didn’t feel ready to leave my home town of Brighton. I have always been very creative and a chef friend of mine came to a family BBQ and tried one of my desserts – a chocolate and raspberry torte, from this he offered me a job in his kitchen and I haven’t looked back! I guess I have always baked a lot from a young age with my grandma, so it has always been a passion.
What is your earliest Brighton food memory?
It would have to be BBQ’s on the beach. Whatever the weather! We would eat the usual BBQ food of potato salad, coleslaw, burgers and hotdogs. But for pudding when the heat of the BBQ died down my dad would roast bananas in their skins, adding a touch of Cointreau and grated chocolate, his signature dessert!
Where was your first role as a pastry chef?
I started as a commis pastry chef at the Ginger Pig in 2011. I’ve known from the start of my career that I wanted to stick to the niche pastry section in kitchens so that I could concentrate on the craft and excel in the area. In smaller towns being a pastry chef is a rarity, I wanted to prove that we can still bring a lot to the business.
What is your favourite dessert to make at the Salt Room?
I’m sure you would expect me to say the Taste of the Pier – which I do love, but I find the other dishes more exciting to make as I can be more creative with the plating. At the moment I love our take on strawberry Eton mess served inside a meringue sphere. I played with the idea of it being ‘no mess’ so our guests make the mess themselves by cracking the meringue shell to reveal the strawberries and homemade crème fraiche.
What’s your highest achievement to date?
Winning 3rd place in Chocolate Weeks ‘Desert of the Year’ was a huge highlight because it was my first competition. I entered by sending an image and the ingredients for a dessert that I created which was Nutella, waffle, coffee and milk – it was my idea of a play on breakfast. It got me through to the final, which was held at Olympia, along with 10 other finalists and 10 judges! It was inspirational to be surrounded by the top pastry chefs in the country and my fellow competitors who all work in amazing kitchens from across the UK.
What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to desserts?
Believe it or not but I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, my favourite dessert has to be a perfect tart au citron! I love the sharpness of lemon, nothing too sickly! Or a classic rhubarb crumble.