POV: At the end of the film you say you are looking forward to “new and good” things. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to since the MOF competition in 2007?
Jacquy Pfeiffer: Together with the entire French Pastry School team, we have created The French Pastry School Scholarship Foundation to help students who seek a solid education in the pastry arts but need a helping hand. We also launched L’Art du Gâteau, The Professional Cake Decorating and Baking Program, and L’Art de la Boulangerie, The Artisanal Bread Baking Course. We added 11,000 square feet in order to better serve our students. We believe that our country needs to be known again for quality and well-manufactured products. Our vocational school is the type of institution that is crucial in today’s economic revival — we graduate 96 percent of our students, who will tomorrow open businesses and create jobs.
POV: You’ve continued to collect awards for your work. You were honored in New York City recently. Can you tell us about them and what they mean to you?
Pfeiffer: I received the Bretzel d’Or from the Institute of Arts and Popular Traditions of Alsace, which recognizes talented Alsatians who preserve the arts and traditions of Alsace, the culturally rich, eastern region of France. I was also inducted into the 2011 Pastry Hall of Fame by Dessert Professional, which held their 18th annual awards ceremony honoring the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America in New York City. The award deemed me a leading figure in the industry, a promoter of excellence in the trade and a pioneer of vocational education. These awards are very humbling, but a pastry chef should never forget that he is only as good as his last croissant.
POV: It’s now been four years since the last MOF competition. We have to ask the question we’re sure many are asking: Did you compete again this year?
Pfeiffer: No, I did not. I prefer helping others who will be tomorrow’s pastry stars.
POV: One of the things that makes Kings of Pastry unique in comparison with Top Chef, Ultimate Recipe Showdown and other food competition shows on American TV is that the film documents a different type of competition, one in which the chefs are striving for their personal best and essentially support each other, instead of bad-mouthing each other behind their backs. What is it about the MOF competition that makes it different, in your opinion?
Pfeiffer: The MOF is not a competition — it is the French government’s master exam for craftsmen. It also holds a special place in the specific field being tested (in this case, pastry), raising the standard for new and better methods, techniques and artistry. The MOF competition is not about making money, since the chefs compete on their own without sponsors. It is like the Olympic games used to be when the sportsmen were amateurs — there is no cash prize for the winners. The MOF competition is actually a type of exam, where more than one candidate can obtain the first prize. It is about elevating your profession and craftsmanship, which is something that is badly needed in our country. It is a competition against yourself, not others. Camaraderie between the candidates is a must; otherwise, you will not obtain the title.
POV: We’ve heard anecdotally that some French chefs complain about the “cupcake-ification” of desserts in America. What’s your take?
Pfeiffer: I don’t get how butter cream on a sponge can create such a craze, but I guess you have to be born and raised here to feel that way. I go nuts for a good éclair or a flaky mille feuille (Napoleon). Outside of the craze for cupcakes, America has really come a long way with fantastic pastry chefs in great restaurants, bakeries and shops all across the country. Many of our own students are now taking their education, adding the American entrepreneurial spirit and starting a variety of great retail bakeries and gelato, chocolate and candy stores.
POV: What do you hope that Americans get out of watching Kings of Pastry on PBS?
Pfeiffer: I hope they will realize how hard craftsmen work, whether they are chefs, carpenters or cheese makers. These days, food is so over-processed and convenience comes before quality. People are now so used to mediocrity. I hope that this documentary will infuse a quest for excellence in every viewer.