Claire Clark, the executive pastry chef at Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin-star The French Laundry restaurant in California, is regarded as one of the top three pastry chefs in the world today.
The petite (5’ 1”) vicar’s daughter who originally intended to pursue a career in music has clocked up a number of firsts in her 25-year career as a pastry chef which has encompassed working in some of the top hotels and restaurants in London.
Education: City & Guilds, Aylesbury College, Buckinghamshire
A two-year City & Guilds catering course at Aylesbury College in Buckinghamshire led to Claire Clark’s first role, aged 17, as a grill commis at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, where she switched to pastry.
A job ad in Caterer & Hotelkeeper first took her to London as pastry commis in Mayfair’s Crockfords gaming club. Clark’s next move, to the Ritz hotel, proved to be a “baptism by fire”.
During her three years at the Hotel InterContinental London hotel (where she rose from second pastry commis to demi-chef), Claire Clark honed her craft under two inspirational Swiss German patissiers – the hotel’s pastry chef Ernst Bachmann and Professor John Huber, who tutored Clark on her day off each week at Thames Valley University in Slough.
London’s Sutherlands restaurant awarded Clark her first role as pastry chef under Garry Hollihead, where she remained for 18 months before moving on to the Portman Inter-Continental hotel.
As head of pastry at Le Cordon Bleu – where she taught for three years – Clark was one of just three women in the UK arm of the Academie Culinaire de France and was asked to join the Master Chefs of Great Britain.
After serving as head pastry chef at Conran’s Bluebird restaurant, Claire Clark set up the pastry department at the House of Commons before moving to Claridge’s, where she won the distinction of becoming the only female recipient of the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de la Grand-Bretagne (Best Craft Worker of Britain) award.
She left in 2000 to seek a suitable London site for a dessert restaurant and, when this failed to materialise, joined the Hilton London Metropole in 2001.
In September 2003, Clark became part of the launch team for Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s highly-anticipated new venture, the Wolselely restaurant in Piccadilly, helping to make it one of London’s hottest to-be-seen-at venues.
After two years at the Wolseley Clark spotted an ad placed by America’s acclaimed chef Thomas Keller in Caterer & Hotelkeeper and, after meeting him, was wooed away from London and her role as chairman of the Association of Pastry Chefs in September to become head pastry chef at his renowned French Laundry restaurant in California in September 2005. That same year, Clark was voted Best Pastry Chef by Restaurant magazine.
Her first book, 100 Perfect Desserts (which featured a foreword by Keller) was voted the Best Dessert Book in the 2007 World gourmand Awards
Claire Clark recipes on CatererSearch
Chocolate red wine cake, by Claire Clark >>
Bramley apple and cinnamon risotto, by Claire Clark >>
Blood orange, cara cara and mandarin jellies with pink grapefruit hache – by Claire Clark >>
Recipes from Claire Clark, pastry chef at California’s French Laundry >>
Claire Clark on CatererSearch
Claire Clark on the Web
The French Laundry >>
Claire Clark – master patissier on Jancis Robinson >>
Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts on Absolute Press >>
The French Laundry at the Association of Pastry Chefs >>
Claire Clark at Chef2chef >>