Welcome to our blog....here we will share all our afternoon tea adventures with you...the good, the bad and the wonderful!

Saturday 12 July 2014

Meet the Pastry Chef....Zoe Wager

Hello there,

Welcome back to another blog post where we meet one of the amazing pastry chefs who create the scrummy afternoon teas that we enjoy! This time we meet Zoe Wager who is the Executive Pastry Chef at the Intercontinental Westminster in London.

Zoe was behind the recent Intercontinental Westminster hit, The Edible Garden, and we recently shared with you a sneak peek of the wonderful new seaside inspired afternoon tea created by Zoe. Here Zoe tells us a little more about the tea....

Our new afternoon tea is titled 'British Summer Holiday'.  It aims to take our guests through a typical day on holiday, starting with a picnic of prawn cocktail and pork pie with piccalilli, even on its own gingham rug!  There are also some delicious classic finger sandwiches such as egg and cress and coronation chicken.  We have used summer as inspiration for our scone flavours and have marmalade and strawberry & yogurt, served with our signature lemon curd, and, of course, clotted cream and strawberry jam.  The finale is a fantastic beach scene , complete with chocolate beach huts, sandcastles, bucket and spades and little windmill toffee chocolate tarts.  You can even eat the sand!

British Summer Holiday Afternoon Tea
Intercontinental Westminster

So what does it take to come up with these amazing afternoon teas......

Q How long does it usually take you to create new afternoon teas?
I’ve always got ideas in my mind and I‘m always making notes or taking photos of interesting things I see which inspire me - these could be food or non-food related.  Once I decide on the theme I would like to do for the next tea it's a few weeks of deciding flavours and developing recipes, as well as looking at presentation ideas before I am happy.  I also have to consider what is practical for my team to reproduce in its hundreds as there's no point doing something beautiful if it cannot be replicated exactly and consistently for each one of our guests.  It's really important to me that the flavours reflect the theme and vice versa. All the little details really count when it comes to afternoon tea.  

Q. Where does your inspiration for new teas come from?
Anywhere and everywhere!  I consider the time of year and any calendar influences - for example, next year I am really looking forward to developing something fun with the General Election in mind.  With so many great afternoon teas in London it is difficult to do something to stand out from the crowd, so I try to do something people would not expect.  I also consider our typical clientele and whether they would respond well to the ideas.  I scour the internet for photos rather than concepts or recipes as afternoon tea is very visual and I want to be able to recreate an experience through my teas.  I think the British Summer Holiday tea that we are doing right now really captures the essence of our childhood and gives people a sense of nostalgia, whilst also showcasing the best of British Summer (with or without the weather!)  

Q. What is your favourite part of your latest afternoon tea?
I think the sandcastles are so cute.  We spray them with chocolate and the texture is so realistic.  Once they have the little chocolate flags they really look the part. I think people on first sight people expect them to be quite dense, so the light peach mousse is refreshing.   

Those super cute sandcastles and buckets!

Q. Do you enjoy a spot of afternoon tea yourself and have you tried tea anywhere else?
I don't often get the chance to go out and try afternoon tea anywhere else, so it is a very special treat.  It always feels strange to be a chef outside the kitchen and I am particularly nosey so always want a little peak inside the kitchen and see what other chefs are up to!  Recently I was lucky enough to visit The Langham. The afternoon tea there is amazing and the pastry chef there, Cherish, is a master of her craft.  

Q. What is your favourite filling in an afternoon tea sandwich?
I love coronation chicken.  I know it's a bit old fashioned but that's the point these flavours which have stood the test of time - it's because they can't be beaten! A nice simple twist on classic cucumber is mint, which I also enjoy

Executive Pastry Chef Zoe Wager
Intercontinental Westminster

Q. The all important question - do you put cream or jam on your scone first?
I always used to put jam on first. Then, recently, I was talking to a friend who said the cream should be considered to be like butter, and therefore it should be spread first.  That made so much sense! I don't know why I never thought of it that way, so now I lashings of cream on first!

Q. If you could invite any guest to enjoy afternoon tea with you, who would it be and why?
Definitely my mum.  She died when I was much younger and never even knew I became a chef.  I would love to have the chance to take her out and spoil her. She would love the afternoon tea experience.  I don't think she ever did it.  

What do you know....Zoe is a "cream first" convert! I'd like to thank Zoe for taking the time to meet us when we last visited the Intercontinental Westminster, we loved seeing the new afternoon tea, and I'd also like to thank Zoe for answering our questions.

This seaside inspired afternoon tea can be enjoyed throughout July and August and is £37.50 per person. If you'd like to find out more about the British Summer Holiday afternoon tea, visit the Intercontinental Westminster website. 

Thank you for popping by today,
Rachel & Lorna

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