If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is one feature you won’t want to miss out on! For this week’s edition of ‘8Shades Of’, we’re talking to award-winning pastry chef Holger Deh, founder of new plant-based patisserie Essentia by Holger Deh – which has just opened a pop-up store in Admiralty’s Pacific Place.
With over two decades of pastry chef experience at renowned venues like Rosewood Hong Kong, Four Seasons Hotel Beijing and Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, Holger decided to launch his very own venture, concentrating exclusively on exquisite vegan desserts and pastries.
We chat to him about how he became interested in sustainability, where he shops for ingredients and the learning curve of creating plant-based pastries.
1. In one sentence, tell us what you do?
I am the founder of Essentia by Holger Deh; we make refined plant-based pastries, a modern patisserie evolution for a natural and healthier future.
2. Why are you an 8Shader?
As a father, I have the responsibility to give my son a world worth living in. I grew up in the German countryside, where having our own fruits and vegetables throughout the year was the norm. Seeing my son growing up in Hong Kong, where most of the food is imported from elsewhere around the world, made me look closer into sustainability.
Prior to starting Essentia by Holger Deh, I had been looking into plant-based pastries for over a year and challenging myself to create plant-based pastries that were just as good as my non-plant-based ones.
3. What’s your best eco habit – and your guilty not-so green one?
My best eco habit is that I’m always striving to reduce my carbon footprint, for example, by sourcing fruits from Taiwan and Asia and following the seasons more closely. As for my not-so green one, I still use a fair amount of plastic wrap to cover my food during production; however, I am looking into alternatives!
4. Favourite eco product or brand?
I don’t really have favourite brands, as I source ingredients from many places to find the best quality products. My favourite place to go is the fresh fruit market in Mong Kok – it always inspires me to make new creations.
5. Fave veggie dishes in Hong Kong?
The harissa-roasted cauliflower at Maison Libanese.
6. What are some of the biggest differences in creating plant-based pastries versus non plant-based ones?
I’ve been working with non-plant based pastries for more than 25 years, so I’d become very accustomed to using ingredients like eggs and gelatine throughout my cooking. If you don’t use eggs, baking is a totally different ball game; for instance, it gives sponge a lighter texture.
I encountered many challenges along the way; producing a plant-based puff pastry that looks and tastes like a non-plant-based pastry took me almost three months to get right, while creating a nice, light plant-based sponge took me roughly three months too. I was using some products from Spain for this; however, the shipment ended up being delayed for months, forcing me to look into other resources. It took me more than nine months to develop and test the products that I have now at Essentia by Holger Deh.
7. What are your top tips for eating more sustainably in everyday life?
Eat more seasonal food and use more local ingredients to reduce your carbon footprint.
8. What shade of green are you and why?
I can be quite specific here! I am Pantone’s 342 U, as that is the shade of green we chose for our company logo.