A true champion, never resting on his laurels
Jean-Thomas Schneider's talent is as subtle as he is modest. His greatest quality is always challenging himself to reach new heights.
To begin with, let's talk about your origins and the inspirations that enabled you to become a great pastry chef.
I was born in Strasbourg in the Alsace province of France, an area with a longstanding tradition for good food. My father, who was a chef, gave me the taste for good family meals and regional specialties. I also have fond memories as a child of going to tearooms with my mother, drinking hot chocolate and eating pastries.
On your website, www.Jean-Thomas.com, you talk about how you got to be Pastry World Champion. We learn that you worked for six years in three-star restaurants and five-star hotels, such as L'Arnsbourg, L'Espérance, Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, l'Hôtel George V, l'Hôtel Meurice. Can you tell us a bit about these experiences, as well as the people who trained you, inspired you and helped you during those years?
Each of these establishments has its own philosophy, its way of transmitting its know-how and its way of thinking. I was lucky enough to work with great pastry chefs and great cooks. Bernard Loiseau's three-star restaurant in Burgundy was a very important place for me. I discovered high-level pastry making and how very technical and complex it was. That's where I met Benoît Charvet, who was to become a major influence in my life! Benoit's daring and his creativity gave me the drive to always take things to the next level. Right now, Benoit and I are once again reunited in the French team, supported by Les vergers Boiron, at the Gelato World Cup 2018, with Christophe Domange and Rémi Montagne.
What was the triggering event that really got you started? The Café Pouchkine seems to have been a key moment.
The Café Pouchkine was my return to working in a pastry shop, after several years in the restaurant trade. I've always been interested in the different facets of our craft and I've always wanted to be versatile. A the Café Pouchkine, I learned a great deal from the pastry chef, Emmanuel Ryon, who is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France in ice-cream making and a Pastry World Champion. The rest is history!
Tell us a bit about your World Championships (ice cream in 2012 and pastry in 2017) and your own experience as a Meilleur Ouvrier de France.
There are far too many stories to tell. In 2012, I was involved in the degustation contest. For the Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2015, I got to the final. I didn't quite have the level to win the title, but I learned a lot and have moved forward thanks to that experience. I started from scratch again, I questioned my abilities and I worked on myself, introspectively. In 2017, for the Pastry World Cup, I was the ice specialist (frozen dessert and ice sculpture) for the French team. In fact, these contests and the people I met have always allowed me to progress.
Do you have a signature dessert, emblematic of your work?
No, because I get bored quickly if I repeat myself. I don't want to take refuge behind a specific dessert or skill that I roll out each time. I would the have the impression I'm living off my past achievements. I love to do new things, I'm keen to find out about what's new in our trade and I'm sensitive to changing tastes and the main issues of food consumption.
What's your main activity these days and what are your plans for the coming months?
I have my training and consulting company (Jean-Thomas.com) and I've remained a pastry chef ambassador for the Louis François Company. I'm preparing for the Gelato World Cup (SIGEP 2018) and I've registered again to take on the challenge of becoming Meilleur Ouvrier de France in ice-cream making.
Editor's Note: When we interviewed Jean-Thomas Schneider in January 23th, 2018, at Sigep fair in Rimini, he and his teammates Benoi Charvet, Christophe Domange and Rémi Montagne hadn't win the title of Gelato World Champion yet.
As a partner of this very talented team, we are extremely proud of their victory! Read the article here.
Tell us a bit about your values and philosophy.
I believe in a few simple values, which are deep-seated: transmission, work and friendship.
Are you involved in any charity activities or programs to help young people? Can gastronomy play a role in education and social integration?
I worked for a program that sought to help young people who were out of touch with the world of work. This project included pastry making, marketing, design, web skills and new technologies. I also do volunteer work for the Princesse Margot Foundation, which supports children and teenagers with cancer sand their families (princessemargot.org). I head up pastry workshops for them, among other things.
Tell us about your relationship with Les vergers Boiron, as a chef and consultant, but also in terms of their products and your demand for quality.
I've been using Les vergers Boiron products for so many years! As a consultant, my first mission was to Slovenia, where I made some
demonstrations, gave a master-class and played a role as adviser to several companies. All these challenges and experiences, and above all meeting different people, are always a source of pleasure that enable me to progress.