From 31 August, renowned Australian pastry chef Philip Khoury can add the title of published author to his extensive resume. Having worked alongside big names such as pâtissier Adriano Zumbo, in 2018 Khoury took on the role of head pastry chef at exclusive London department store Harrods. Introducing plant-based pastry to the menu for the first time, Khoury’s enthusiasm for plant-based cooking is evident and shines through in his new cookbook A New Way to Bake.
Transforming the traditional building blocks of baking, A New Way to Bake offers readers more than 80 crowd-pleasing recipes, including pecan pie and Eton mess. Each dessert uses natural ingredients that are easily accessible to the home cook and comes with a video guide, so you can cook along with the renowned chef himself.
Excited by the concept, Brummell spoke with Philip Khoury to learn more about his inspiration:
What led to you discovering your love for the culinary arts? And how did it lead you to focus on plant-based pastry?
I’m from a Lebanese family of food lovers. Food was where we connected, whether at home, at my grandparents or out exploring restaurants as a family. I just never considered it a career until 21 and then I dove into it, making up for lost time. I chased pastry perfection aggressively over the next five years, starting at Peter Gilmore’s Quay restaurant, before ending up with Australia’s answer to Willy Wonka, Adriano Zumbo. My curiosity was sated working alongside him. It was a chance conversation five years ago that sparked burning questions about plant-based/vegan pastry. At first I thought it was impossible, or at least inferior, so there was an element of challenge. Getting up close to food and how it’s produced forces you to consider that we need more options that are lower impact and better in terms of quality, and for people, planet and animals.
You’ve been working as head pastry chef at Harrods since 2018; what is your favourite challenge about working here?
The variety of projects and working with such a big team. We have 50+ pastry chefs and bakers in-house producing our made-in-house ranges fresh every day. This is thousands of products across over 200 lines, produced for the 20+ restaurants in Harrods and the iconic Food Halls. Harrods is the largest food and beverage operation in Northern Europe in one building, and making the magic happen every day is a huge team effort – and that’s just the pastry department! There’s the savoury side, too.
What should we expect from your new recipe book A New Way to Bake?
A new way to bake! It turns out we have so many incredible naturally plant-based ingredients that we already use (sono margarines or commercial substitutes) with immense functionality. We just needed to find new ways to let them shine through some reformulation, re-imagination and magic (knowledge from years of questioning everything – annoying all the pastry professionals I’ve worked with – and countless trials and tribulations).
Do you have a “must-try” recipe from your new book?
The banoffee pie or the apple pie. Simple, crowd-pleasing and delicious. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I sought to create perfect versions of these desserts and improve on the standard recipes in a number of ways.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received in your career and why?
‘If you can imagine it, you can create it’ – Adriano Zumbo. This, told another way, also translates into a number of other favourite bits of advice I’ve received.
Who is your role model and how have they influenced you in your work?
Professionally, I think it would be Adriano Zumbo. I spent two years running R&D for his sweet paradise with him. It was a dream job.
What single ingredient can you not live without and why?
Chocolate. It really did come from the gods – it took many strokes of gastronomic genius over thousands of years to bring us this treat. We need to fight for better working conditions and living wages for the farmers who grow and produce the raw materials of this magical foodstuff. For the pastry professional and consumer, this means choosing brands that pay fairly.
What are your biggest passions?
In a world that’s overcome with so many issues, the most existential being the climate crisis – as a pastry chef, I felt like I was superfluous. Just frou-frou. But cake is more than that. I can say more, but this might not be the best forum. I reframed my purpose and I am doing what I can, as a pastry chef, to contribute solutions. There is no perfect solution, but we need more options that are authentically delicious and lower impact.
Where is your favourite place to eat in London and why?
This is like asking someone to pick their favourite child – you shouldn’t have one, but you do. So many amazing places. I love Imad’s Syrian Kitchen because Imad is a man with a pure heart and his food is a taste of my heritage/comfort (I am of Lebanese descent).
What do you like to do on your days off?
I can’t remember – my days off for the past three years have consisted of producing this book and the 80 full-demonstration videos that accompany them! (I jest.) Before this took over my life, I enjoyed art, coffee culture and cake. My life is one big cake crawl.
A New Way to Bake (£30, Hardie Grant) is available from 31 August.