Pastry Queen 2016, AMPI (Italian Master Patissier Academy) teacher and consultant, Silvia Federica Boldetti, known as Signorina Fantasia, masterfully swings between patisserie and writing. Besides having shared with us some of the recipes that she will perform live at SIGEP 2019, Silvia has also allowed us to take a peek in her extravagant and colourful world. Don’t miss her cooking show at our stand at SIGEP on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 January 2019! Hall D7, Stand 112.
In 2018-2019, Zanolli will sponsor a series of events called Genio e Follia (Genius and Madness), and the Festival della Bellezza (Festival of Beauty). Genius, madness and beauty are themes we embrace, despite the fact that we come from an ‘outsider’ field such as mechanical engineering. How do you think you embody them in the patisserie world? What is beauty for you, in general and, specifically, in patisserie?
Silvia Federica Boldetti: I am not sure I can consider myself brilliant, or beautiful. What I know is that I do have a little bit of madness. Provided by “madness” we mean the determination to chase after one’s dreams relentlessly and in spite of what the others may consider good or bad. I thinks there is not just ONE definition that fits me. I am not a pastry chef, nor a writer, nor a graduate in Economics. I am just Silvia, period. And I believe it is important to be able to reinvent oneself whenever one feels the need to do so, regardless of the classic association person/profession. Beauty? Beauty is harmony of colors and shapes, of movements, of feelings, which can shine through an attitude, an object, a flavor. I don’t think that there is just one way of beauty and that classic canons are the only lead to follow. Perhaps, the one concept I would not split from beauty is “harmony”, which does not necessarily mean “order”, as harmony can be found in chaos as well. Under this point of view, I think that my cakes and my words do embody beauty. They express harmony, in my own way.
Teamwork and a sporting mindset are important driving principles for Zanolli. Do you think they are also important in patisserie? Have you had experiences where individual ambitions and competition seemed to prevail over team spirit?
SFB: I have certainly noticed competition in patisserie, but this is understandable when there are competitions in which the individual wants to excel. However, we also often help one another and work together, within a sharing perspective. This is very important to me. I sometimes notice prima donna attitudes and a certain unwarranted spite aimed at discrediting ‘rivals’. I find this behaviour silly. Fortunately, many understand that when you work together you get results that go far beyond the sum of the individual contributions.
TV, social networks, trade press: How do you manage to combine so successfully your presence across the board in the various media with your work as patissier? What do you think of talent shows?
SFB: Let’s say that I find communication easy and spontaneous. I like to share my experiences and I am a natural in doing so through writing. That is why it’s not hard for me to keep my media up to date. In addition, for me who doesn’t own an actual patisserie, social networks and media in general are, in a certain way, my only showcase. I like transparency and I don’t feel the need to distinguish between private and professional life since I am always the same person. In my opinion, talent shows are mainly designed to entertain, to involve the public on an emotional level and to get people talking about them, more than to highlight the real skills of competitors.
CAST Alimenti is a close-knit partner for us, in the same way as it was an exceptional incubator for you. Do you have any tales to tell about your experience in CAST?
SFB: I definitely have great memories of CAST. It made me feel like I was part of a large family, living in a big house or on a campus. I was in CAST in 2013, when the facility was still quite small. We all knew each other and there was a lovely atmosphere. I have noticed over the years that the school has grown and developed, no doubt thanks in part to the teachers and the increasing prestige that it has earned. I realise now that now for many interns, training at CAST is an important work experience, and that the school itself has strengthened its own entrepreneurship. An amazing evolution!
Magic, dreams, colour… are there tools, materials and ingredients that are essential in particular to achieving your creations? What’s your worst nightmare?
SFB: When I work, I like to maintain a certain rhythm, a certain speed. For this reason, I am particularly attached to ingredients such as sugar and chocolate, which change rapidly, impatiently, but allow a great variety of processes. It’s a great challenge for me to manage them successfully and they allow me to create many things. As for the tools, what I like using best in patisserie are tools or objects that have not been designed for a certain purpose. I like to reinvent creatively unusual objects for use in patisserie. I can’t say that I have an actual nightmare, but leavened products in general inspire me less, especially for the times they require.
Where do we find traces of your travels in your patisserie? Did you ever want to open a shop in one of the many places you’ve explored?
SFB: Traces of my travels are found a bit all over in my work, especially in the shapes and colours. I liked many places that I visited and the idea of opening a business has occurred to me; but for now, I don’t feel like being tied to one place, nor to a single profession for that matter…
The issue of reducing consumption and waste is very important to us: what measures do you adopt to limit waste and optimise production.
SFB: Given that I don’t have my own business with high volumes of production, I don’t have to face the problem of waste in person. For me, waste is avoided especially during conception of a recipe. I have noticed, however, that poor management of input is often the cause of unnecessary waste and costs. It is essential to know the basics of food cost.
Your creations are playful, dreamlike, where aesthetics seem to play a fundamental role. However, in terms of taste, what do you like to offer? What do you like to explore?
SFB: Firstly, I always keep in mind that the flavour should be based on the type of audience or consumer to whom the product is offered. Then, I try to imagine the taste journey through a head note, a heart note and a base note, as you do with perfumes. I let myself be guided by inspiration and instinct, but empirical testing is essential to see whether the taste, as I had imagined, is actually conveyed and whether the recipe is achievable on a practical level.
Your philosophy seems to be based on determination, but also on modesty, not resting on your laurels. Is it more dangerous to give up or to think you’re the winner?
SFB: I would say that they are two sides of the same coin, because both attitudes lead in a certain way to a dead end. Those who give up often abandon a challenge too early. It is precisely the fear of failure that often leads to error. Those who are conceited and believe they’ve already made it and reached a goal risk neglecting future goals, and thus risk failing to evolve.