We met up with MOF Chef Sébastien Chevallier at the Academy of Pastry and Bakery Arts Philippines in April this year. It was pleasant meeting the world-renowned chef on a beautiful afternoon, to find out what he has achieved in his career and what it takes to win the prestigious title of Un des Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF).
Un des Meilleur Ouvier de France (Best Craftsmen of France) is a unique and esteemed title awarded only to those who passed the test, judged on the know-how and the creativity of candidates in more than 200 manual trades. (The National Society of the Best workers in France), (n.d.). Skills that are tested for the title includes Meilleur Ouvrier de France Boulanger (Baker) —the title that Chef Chevalier attained. Winners carry the title for life and are widely recognised for their work among professionals and the greater public of France. So what moulded Chef Chevallier to the MOF he is now?
Chef Chevallier, like any other individual, grew up in a modest home located at Gray, Eastern France. He was the oldest son of four and the only one who shared the same passion as his mother towards baking. He watched his mother bake—who was a baker then—and fell in love with the art. Every knead filled his heart, and he was spurred, inspired by his mother to take on baking as a profession. At a tender age of 15, Chef Chevallier began his first entourage as an apprentice for a local bakery, Deschamp (named after the owner). There, he picked up the basics and left for another bakery two years later. Four years in the next bakery, Chef Chevalier knew he had to hone his skills further. He signed up for several National contests in France, and was awarded Vice Champion de France de Boulangerie in 2009, and took down second in his first European Championship as Vice Champion d’Europe de Boulangerie. This spurred him on to join more competitions when he finally won the European Championship in 2010, emerging as Champion d’Europe de Boulangerie. And in the short span of a year, he attained the title of MOF.
Despite his achievements, Chef Chevallier was no stranger to stumbling blocks. Most notably when he was tied to a Paris bakery ran by three different chefs—answering to different superiors brought about complications and difficulties.
Years later with belts under his name, Chef Chevallier decided it was time to impart his skills and train keen bakers. Now, he travels around the world hosting Master Classes. Chef Chevallier finds teaching more rewarding when he sees the hard work and passion in his students. He also finds the work more enriching, meeting people of different nationality and culture and has never found language differences a barrier with translators stationed. In fact, he was more than pleased to teach outside of France in which his French students seemed to have a lot of complaints in life. He always gives his students the same advice: “Work hard and never stop studying, learning and improving.” He admitted that he still considers himself at a learning stage because the profession requires life-long learning, “keep joining competitions when you can and always heed the advice of more learned/experienced chefs.” There’s a saying in France, “the student needs to overtake the mentor.” Only when the student has done so can he/she say with confidence that he/she has the necessary knowledge to venture on one’s own.
To his students, he always gives the same advice: “Work hard and never stop studying, learning and improving”. He admitted that he still considers himself at a learning stage because the profession requires life-long learning. Keep joining competitions when you can and always heed the advice of more learned/experienced chefs. There’s a saying in France, “the student needs to overtake the mentor”. Only when the student has done so can he/she say with confidence that he/she has the necessary knowledge to venture on one’s own.
With great mentors and hard work, Chef Chevallier has paved his way to his current success and wouldn’t have done otherwise. He feels blessed that he gets to travel around the world to impart his knowledge, skills and techniques. And is happy to have learned a skill that can bring smiles to people just by using simple ingredients like flour and water.
To end the lovely afternoon, Chef Chevallier shared what he thinks constitutes a great bread. For him, the flavour and texture are the best qualities to decide whether a bread is good. But of course, each country will have its unique taste and style and brands that pastry chefs work hard to build.
kim@work would like to acknowledge the following:
Sébastien Chevallier, (Meilleur Ouvrier de France Boulanger, 2011) Vesoul, France
Charmaine Lopez-Yoingco (Writer/Editor/Gourmand Societe) Manila, Philippines
Clover Ng (Contributor Writer/Editor/Gourmand Societe) Singapore
Mikey Philip (Creative Web Developer/SEO Strategists/Resource Mode/kim@work) HongKong
Alec Jean Christopher Beckley (Creative Web Designer/Gourmand Societe/Kim@work) Manila, Philippines
Special thanks to: Academy of Pastry and Bakery Arts Philippines
Kings of Pastry, Heggedus, C., Pennebaker, D. C. 2011. POV Communication and Education: Discussion Guide https://pov-tc.pbs.org/pov/downloads/2011/pov-kingsofpastry-discussion-guide-color.pdf. (Accessed 18 October 2017)
MOF Societe Nationale Des Meilleurs Ouvrier De France., n.d. http://www.meilleursouvriersdefrance.info/qui-sommes-nous_passer.php. (Accessed 14 September 2017).
De Tables. n.d. MOF Boulanger: Six titres de Meilleur Ouvrier de France. http://lyon-saveurs.fr/mof-boulanger-six-titres-de-meilleur-ouvrier-de-france/. (Accessed 19 September 2017).