Five Minutes with Sarah Barber


If ever a woman deserved the title ‘Queen of Tarts’ it’s this chef, who reigns supreme with majestic mille feuilles, gorgeous gateaux and the most decadent dream desserts.

We were delighted to discover Sarah Barber’s new dessert-led restaurant when it opened within London’s plush Hotel Café Royal in March – and even more delighted that she agreed to be Good Things’ first female Guest Chef. Along with creating one of her favourite desserts for our front cover, she let us in on an enduring and rather glittering career in the world of patisserie. Driven, creative and exceptionally talented, it’s a joy to step into this woman’s world.


Where do you draw your inspiration from?
‘My chef grandfather was an early – and key – career inspiration. Many chefs I’ve worked for subsequently have shaped my style and direction and made me into the professional I am today. My philosophy is to take the good elements from everyone I encounter and use that knowledge to the best of my ability to develop my own style. When I’m creating new recipes, I see everything as a potential source of inspiration. From London to art to fashion to seasonal ingredients. Ideas can stem from a memory or just from something I see – then I strive to evoke it in patisserie form. For instance, I might seek to capture the scent of a fresh rose in a chocolate or a complex plated dessert.’
Can you tell us a bit about your career path?
‘I can’t imagine any other career than my current one. It’s in my blood; I live and breathe it every day. I began to specialise in pastry aged 18. Of all the areas of the kitchen, the pastry section always seemed to me to be the most calm, controlled and artistic. It was where I found I could be most creative, and I found the technical work far more refined than in the main kitchen.
I’ve now been in the industry for almost two decades and seen endless trends and techniques go in and out of fashion. The industry has evolved so much – that’s why I love my career. There is always something new to learn, create and master, and I can’t see that ever changing.’
What have been the highlights of your career?
‘Last year, I published my debut pastry book Patisserie Perfection and created many of the recipes for guests at the launch to look at and dig into! I made an entirely edible woodland forest with chocolate soil, chocolate tree bark and mushrooms. The event was amazing – a very proud moment in my career. My latest highlight is the opening of my own dedicated dessert restaurant in Hotel Café Royal, allowing me to share my sweet creations with a new audience.’
What are your favourite flavours to work with?
‘There are several tried and tested flavour combinations which are perennial personal favourites – raspberry, lychee and rose; chocolate and orange; rhubarb and custard. I always try to create something new with my patisserie. I love savoury snacks like cheese on toast and, in recent years, I’ve had a strong preference for integrating savoury elements into otherwise sweet items to create desserts that are lighter and more unusual. The Snickers Cake from Patisserie Perfection is one of my favourite recipes in the book, because it contains all the elements I love best – caramel, salted peanuts and chocolate.’
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