Tue | May 28, 2024

J’can chef bringing local flavours to French pastries

Published:Thursday | March 7, 2024 | 12:08 AMShanel Lemmie/Staff Reporter
Otaheite apple rosette tarts, one of Barclay’s newest creations.
Otaheite apple rosette tarts, one of Barclay’s newest creations.
Inspiring the name of her patisserie, macarons came easy to Barclay.
Inspiring the name of her patisserie, macarons came easy to Barclay.
Mango mousse cups are a sweet treat that can be enjoyed on the go.
Mango mousse cups are a sweet treat that can be enjoyed on the go.
Otaheite apple pie is one of the many crossover dishes that Barclay is known for.
Otaheite apple pie is one of the many crossover dishes that Barclay is known for.
The raspberry mousse cake with raspberry chocolate mirror glaze, topped with fresh strawberries and macarons.
The raspberry mousse cake with raspberry chocolate mirror glaze, topped with fresh strawberries and macarons.
Assorted éclairs are a mainstay of French cuisine.
Assorted éclairs are a mainstay of French cuisine.
Executive pastry chef and owner of Le Macaron Pastries and Desserts, Saleema Barclay.
Executive pastry chef and owner of Le Macaron Pastries and Desserts, Saleema Barclay.
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

Like many foodies, Saleema Barclay knew from an early age she had an affinity for food. Garnering a special place in her heart were the myriad of sweet treats Jamaica has become known for.

She told Food, “I’ve always been interested in food, but, you know, it was a hidden desire I suppose, because the culinary arts, as most persons would have come to understand at that time, wasn’t a well-paying career path. So my parents encouraged me to go into the financial services sector, which is where I spent most of my life.”

Twelve years into the career she thought she would spend the rest of her life in, Barclay said she heard a story about a fellow dreamer choosing their passion later in life. This struck a nerve with her. Taking a leap of faith, the Kingston native enrolled in the Gastronomicom International Culinary Academy in France.

“It was a big decision I made at the time, and that was coupled with my own personal life. I didn’t know what I was gonna get myself into, but at the same time, it was the adventure of being able to do this thing that I had kept hidden for all this time,” she recalled fondly.

Barclay began studying the art of patisserie under instructors from across the globe that made their way to the French institution.

“It was really good, people from all over coming together, and we all love food. So it was really a good experience from that end.”

Recalling her favourite part of the experience, Barclay said, “Working in a French kitchen, it’s a standard that I am yet to see replicated here. And I not saying that what we have here is in any way, shape or form under any kind of standard, it’s just a different way of approaching food. It’s a small restaurant, but everything was done from scratch. There’s no such thing as ketchup, unless it was for the staff to eat with fries.”

There for just under a year, Barclay told Food the practices she learnt while in Europe have become some of her foundational guidelines in her own kitchen.

“That set my own personal standard for my business, because I wanted to be able to give persons [the best], where possible, because the reality is, I’m in Jamaica and I don’t have access to all of those ingredients and resources, but, where possible, always get fresh ingredients,” she explained.

When she returned home in 2016, Barclay began laying the groundwork for a passion project she had long dreamt of, Le Macaron Pastries and Desserts.

Named for the pastry that she said came most naturally to her during her studies, she said the endeavour is meant to be a melding of the minds when it comes to European and Jamaican desserts.

“I wanted to be able to transmute what I’d learned in France to Jamaica. I don’t think I’ve gotten there yet, but my 100 per cent desire is for us to be able to change the way that we treat with food.”

She continued, “I grew up on bulla and rock cake, and I love a gizzada and everything like that, but it’s that highly sugared desserts. These are loaded with sugar and I’m not big on sugar at all. I want persons to maybe get something new that’s still Jamaican. You know, use up a lot more of what we have here.”

“People travel to taste a country. I want the Jamaican flavours to be in my food. I want whatever is in season to translate into what I’m preparing. That’s where the creativity comes in for me.”

Employing local ingredients like fresh Otaheite apples, guavas, passion fruits, local cocoa and coconuts, Barclay reproduces any and everything you can find in a French patisserie.

Further opening up sweet treats to those who previously couldn’t partake, Barclay said she was determined to provide not only vegan and gluten-free pastries, but treats completely void of sugar as well.

“A big part of our business is that we actually cater to persons who have those kinds of restrictions. There was a doctor who came to me and her story really touched me. She said that her son was six and he never had cake. I was like ‘Wow!’ He couldn’t have gluten and that’s one of the reason I really decided to push it.”

She went on, “I want persons to know that they don’t have to sacrifice or take a smaller bite out of something because they know it gonna hurt their stomach. They can actually have a cake and eat it, and be happy to eat it.”

shanel.lemmie@gleanerjm.com