Rocco Forte Hotels

Hotel Astoria’s Head Pastry Chef, Yulia Ivanova, has travelled the world drawing inspiration for her intricate, magical creations. Her imagination knows no bounds: from chocolate Faberge eggs to edible music boxes, every dessert she designs enchants visitors to Astoria Restaurant. She tells us more about her education, career and art.

Working with desserts sounds like every child’s dream. Is it what you’ve always wanted to do?

“In my family, there are no professional chefs, but of course my mom and grandmother are the best cooks in the world. For me, it started as a hobby. I just cooked for friends and family and was accumulating quite a few recipes. I soon realised cooking was what really brought me pleasure.”

How did you take it further? 

“Le Cordon Bleu was the only place for me. The only question was whether to become a chef or pastry chef. I like to joke that I didn’t want to smell like fish, so I chose pastry. Confectionery is an exact science. You can’t make or hide mistakes. I like this approach – it’s more challenging. When I see flaws in my work, I go back to see where the problem occurred. It’s then that I often discover new techniques and flavour combinations. After all, many of the greatest culinary discoveries were made by mistake. I’ve been in confectionery for nine years now, and I’ve never once thought I’m not in the right place. This is my calling.”

What did you enjoy most about studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney?

“I loved everything about it. I was learning from the best teachers, surrounded by students who were just as enthusiastic. Every day, I thought, ‘What will Chef show us today? What will it be?’ It was a different world, and we were the lucky ones who had the good fortune to find ourselves there. I think Le Cordon Bleu provides the most solid culinary education in the world, one that fully prepares students with the discipline, skills and love for the profession. Before I came to the school, I was very interested in culinary pursuits, but it was at Le Cordon Bleu that I fell in love with it.”

How did you come to work at Hotel Astoria?

“My first position as a student was at pastry shop Adriano Zumbo in Sydney. After that, I worked in two French patisseries, a chocolate shop and The Langham. The range of work in a hotel is very extensive and not limited to five items on the menu, like in a restaurant. That’s why after returning to Russia, working in a hotel became my priority. I’ve been at Hotel Astoria for over five years.” 

What is your favourite aspect of the role?

“I love it all. In the kitchen, I’m like a fish in the sea. But my favourite thing is working with chocolate; it’s my specialisation. I dream of opening an Astoria Chocolate Shop.”

What does a typical day at work involve?

“No two days are the same, which I love. There are routine things, like going through emails, ordering products, etc., and then the day can take any direction. I could be working on recipes for new chocolates, decorating a wedding cake, making desserts for the restaurant, updating our Afternoon Tea selection or discussing new breads with the baker.”

You’ve created desserts in collaboration with names like Fabergé and Diana Vishneva. Tell us more…

“I met with Diana Vishneva before creating the dessert. It wanted to hear her vision. She shared memories of her childhood treats – her mom’s baked apples with cinnamon and sugared cranberries. These flavours became the basis for the dessert. Diana is very beautiful and feminine, and the shape of the dessert had to reflect that. I eventually chose the round chocolate jewellery box, filled with confectionery jewels. The idea was to show cultural richness, beauty, tenderness and femininity – I think Diana embodies all that.” 

What has been the most challenging dessert you’ve created?

“I think it was actually Diana Vishneva’s. It was not so much the difficulty as the huge responsibility. Diana said that as a ballet dancer, she rarely allows herself dessert, and often she’s disappointed after hoping for something truly special. So it was very important for me that Diana liked the final product. And she did! I’m thrilled that our guests like it and it remains our bestseller two years later. I’m very proud of it!”

What seasonal treats can guests expect this Christmas at Hotel Astoria?

“Every year we have our Christmas market with traditional sweets. Our Astoria Chocolatier brand is continuing to develop, but all will be revealed closer to the time.”

To taste Yulia's creations at Hotel Astoria or find out more, email reservations.astoria@roccofortehotels.com or call +7 812 494 5770.

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