A Perfect Symmetry

Passion catches up with the award-winning Four Seasons Resorts Bali’s executive pastry chef, Yusuke Aoki, and learns about his love for chocolate and perfection.

One year after his arrival in Bali, Yusuke Aoki still admits of being constantly inspired by the island. “Even the mountain is inspiring! There’s a tribute to Mount Agung on our dinner menu, a valrhona caraibe chilli lava cake with salty caramel strawberry sauce and vanilla ice cream,” states Aoki in good-humored. He is responsible for the pastry creations on both of Four Seasons Resorts Bali properties as well as catering for events, banquets and Sundara’s increasingly popular cakes offer.

The 35-year-old chef began his career in his hometown, Kyoto, 13 years ago. After graduating from Kyoto Pastry Art College, he went to France to learn about everything that needs to be learned under the tutelage of an experienced pastry chef. Aoki returned to Japan and immediately began his career in the country’s top hotel and then started his international journey working at five-star hotels in Toronto, Paris, Doha, and last but not least, Bali. Aoki has won numerous competitions such as the Global Pastry Chef Challenge Competition in Qatar 2015 - Gold Medal and Global Pastry Chef Challenge International in Greece 2016 as The Best Use of Dilmah Tea.

How do you combine your Japanese heritage with the French influence in your work as a pastry chef?

I found out about my passion for pastry when I joined a cooking class after high school. I learned that pastry is more than just cooking. It is all about perfection, precision and artistry. The presentation has to be perfect, and I suppose it suits my Japanese heritage. We are perfectionists! In Japan, we closely follow and influenced by the French pastry tradition. So, it is only natural that after I decided to become a pastry chef, I went to France and learn everything about it.

How do you define your style as a pastry chef?
My creation must have these two qualities: tasty and beautiful. I consider a creation is successful when I hear the guest says ‘I don’t want to cut it, it is too beautiful’! Desserts have to create a ‘wow’ factor in a guest’s dining experience. I enjoy creating different elements, putting them together and make it work. Showing off the natural ingredients in their best possible way is also important. If it’s chocolate, for example, let it remains to be chocolate, both in color and in texture. I notice that sometimes chefs use too many elements and food coloring. If I have kids, I wouldn’t let them eat it!

Speaking of chocolate, I notice that you work with a lot of chocolate. What do you love the most about working with chocolate?
Chocolate work is different from any other pastry work. You need to really understand the nature of chocolate to make it work. It’s quite tricky to work with it, especially here with the humidity and temperature, two of its biggest enemies. I need to adjust the recipe and being extra careful about the transportation. But when you get it, there is no limit for your creation.

What sort of chocolate that you use here?
Valrhona. We use their dark chocolates and milk chocolate. Apart from the high quality, the company is also very supportive and open for collaborations. I have asked them to bring more products to Indonesia, as well as teaching my team here on how to use the products perfectly. I feel there is still not enough appreciation for pastry work here but it is our job as a pastry chef to educate our customers and show them that there is so much more to chocolate desserts than brownie or chocolate fudge cake!