The Journey of a Well-travelled Pastry Chef

Perhaps you’ve never thought much about careers in hospitality or the hotel industry and where it could take you. Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney Pastry Chef, Noa Nisell-Hauser can tell you otherwise, with a cosmopolitan resume to boot. Imagine being able to get international experience and do what you love? With experience working in countries such as Israel, Sweden and Australia, Noa has been able to learn new skills, inspiration and cuisines which enhance her ability to thrive in her kitchen at Radisson Blu.

For someone who started out in university as per her parent’s expectations, Noa ended up a chef after realising halfway through that studying just wasn’t for her. “I went to university, because most people do, but halfway through it, I thought I should start culinary school.” After picking up culinary school as a hobby outside of university, Noa soon began to realise that a degree in social work wasn’t going to satisfy her, and changed her major to political science and theatre studies. “I almost finished my masters in theatre, but that’s when I had my [first] child, and I decided that I love pastry more, as it was more enriching for me than studying. So, I followed my passion for cooking.”

When Noa first started her baking career, one of her first jobs was in a cookie factory, where she was part of a factory production line, and at that point, Noa realised she needed to be working in a more diverse job. “When I first started working in pastry, I did a week in a cookie factory and by the end of the week I couldn’t stand it, because how many cookies can I make!? It was so repetitive to me. I like that I now have variety in my day, there is always a lot to be done and no day is the same anymore.”

After her experience in a cookie factory, Noa was able to branch out and expand her CV by working at venues such as bistros, specialty cafes, modern Australian restaurants such as Icebergs Bondi and now with her venture into luxury hotels. Seeking a versatile and dynamic workplace, Noa enjoys the excitement of working at a hotel, where there is routine, yet creative reign for her to continuously craft her trade.

“I start work at 7am, bake the pastries for the bar, go through the day’s functions lists and cook for those accordingly. I check dessert levels and make fresh stock as needed, I prepare for any high tea orders and follow my ‘prep’ lists. Minimum once a week, I also try and create a new item, to keep the menu interesting as we have a lot of regular guests, especially during peak function season. It’s also to keep me inspired and remain creative.”

For chefs to develop menus and keep up with trends and styles in the food industry, they must continue to research, study and experiment with their food. Noa doesn’t watch any cooking television programs or documentaries, but she makes sure to research and adapt recipes to work in her kitchen. “If there are any new and exciting pastry books, I would buy those, but generally I just love to tweak my own recipes to create new ones. I do love to read food blogs to get ideas, especially relating to vegan cuisine, as I discover new ingredients to work with, that I can incorporate into my menus such as chickpea water (which is used to mimic the property of egg whites). I find great alternatives to try out in my cooking.”

When you truly find a career path you enjoy, you can be satisfied in your achievements, your opportunities to improve and your ability to grow. When asked about any career highlights or standout moments, Noa was able to reminisce of how far she has come.

“When I changed my major at university, I had realised I couldn’t be that person, and knew I wanted to do pastry school. A career highlight for me was when the French president, Emmanuel Macron dined in the bistro I worked at and I got to bake his dessert. Afterwards, he shook our hands and thanked us. That day was very stressful, but it was very rewarding knowing how impressed he was with his meal.

“Back when I worked in a gluten-free restaurant, I also served food to a renowned Australian food critic who came to critique the restaurant, and he said he LOVED my dessert; which was really reassuring of my cooking skills.”

If you can take anything away from Noa’s journey from Tel Aviv to a 5-star Sydney hotel, it’s that passion and persistence to get what you want out of life will result in self-satisfaction. There are careers you might right off as a ‘hobby’, but determination can turn that into a career that quite literally, takes you places. “Because I love to travel, wherever I go in the world, I can get a job. I don’t need language skills, my skills are transferable and I can move around. There’s always jobs globally. Wherever I go, people appreciate my knowledge from working with different cuisines. I’ve gone from working in a cookie factory, patisseries, cafes, a bistro, to now working in a 5-star hotel.

“I always had my own dream of having my own little patisserie shop – that’s the dream; but I’m not sure if I want to pursue it now. As you get older, you realise how hard it would be, especially with having a family… but that was always a really nice dream.”

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