International Women’s Day Series: Rosaria Sara Spina

Rosaria Sara Spina
Credit Eataly

In this series for International Women’s Day (IWD), we sat down with Rosaria Sara Spina, Head Pastry Chef at Eataly to discuss what IWD means to her, where she gets her inspiration from and advice for any aspiring pastry chefs.

Rosaria moved to the UK in 2005, and joined Eataly as Head Pastry Chef in 2021. Her experience includes Head Pastry Chef at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Shard, London and at Fortnum & Mason’s.

Q. What inspired you to pursue a career as a pastry chef, and how did your journey lead you to Eataly?

A. I have always had a passion for creating delicious desserts and exploring the artistry of pastry making. From an early age, I found joy in experimenting with different flavours and techniques in the kitchen. My mother always used to cook and bake when I was younger and still does today. This passion led me to pursue formal culinary training, where I honed my skills and deepened my understanding of pastry artisanry.

Q. What inspires you as a pastry chef?

A. Throughout my journey, I drew inspiration from various sources – from renowned pastry chefs to culinary traditions. I found fulfilment in the creativity and precision required in pastry work, and I knew that I wanted to pursue it as a career.

Eataly and its dedication to high-quality ingredients and authentic Italian cuisine stood out as an ideal place to further develop my skills and share my passion for pastry with others. The opportunity to work in such a dynamic and prestigious culinary environment was incredibly appealing to me.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about working as a pastry chef, and what keeps you motivated to continually innovate and create new desserts?

A. As a pastry chef, the ability to bring joy to people’s lives through what I create is the most rewarding aspect of my work. There is a unique satisfaction in seeing someone take a bite of a dessert I have crafted and watching their eyes light up with delight. Knowing that I have contributed to someone’s moment of happiness is incredibly fulfilling.

The endless potential for exploration and discovery within pastry-making keeps me motivated. Pastry is an art form that allows infinite creativity, whether experimenting with new flavour combinations, incorporating innovative techniques, or drawing inspiration from diverse culinary traditions. The team at Eataly also motivate me. They have a lot of patience, and I love working with them.

Q. Could you describe your creative process when developing new pastry recipes or designing dessert menus?

A. When developing new pastry recipes or designing dessert menus, I think about how this new dish will deliver a memorable experience to our customers. I am particularly mindful of working in line with the seasons, as fresh, seasonal ingredients often inspire the best creations. I am always looking online for ideas and trends, the latest products, fruits, and flavour combinations. Once I have a vision, I sketch the design and cut the dessert into layers.

I strive to keep Italian traditions at the core while infusing them with other culinary influences to create a unique twist. Testing the recipe is crucial, and I rely on taste tests with my team to gather feedback, considering that each person’s palate may vary. Through this collaborative process and attention to detail, we craft desserts that delight the taste buds and leave an impression on our customers.

Q. Which other pastry chef’s work do you most admire in the City?

A. Cherish Finden’s work truly stands out to me. Her precision in pastry artisanry is remarkable, reflecting her creativity and strength as a woman in the culinary world. Her creations are full of flair and flavour, highlighting her attention to detail. I particularly admire Cherish’s fearlessness in taking on new challenges in her career and creations. Cherish’s work is inspiring and always pushes boundaries in pastry artistry.

Q. What do you love most about your role at Eataly?

A. What I love most about my role at Eataly is the incredible team I work with. Additionally, feeling close to Italy through our authentic Italian products and the spirit of our team adds a special touch to my role. Working with high-quality ingredients allows us to create dishes we can take pride in, and the creative freedom presents us with a blank canvas. The flexibility in my schedule, starting work early in the morning, allows me to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Great people, quality products, creative freedom, and a balanced lifestyle make my role at Eataly incredibly fulfilling and enjoyable.

Q. How do you stay current with emerging trends and techniques in pastry-making?

A. I draw inspiration from everywhere, whether browsing online, researching ideas, or simply exploring London. Even during holidays, I am always on the lookout! To ensure that my team at Eataly stay up to date, we experiment with different techniques and ingredients, work on accommodating different diets, and continuously explore new ways to cater to diverse preferences.

Q. What role do you believe presentation plays in the overall dining experience, and how do you approach the balance between aesthetics and flavour in your desserts?

A. Presentation plays a crucial role in the dining experience, but taste takes the lead. An aesthetically pleasing dessert is necessary for a first impression where flavour creates a lasting impact on the diner. To find the perfect balance, I prioritise taste more than anything else. Additionally, I opt for less sugar to enhance the ingredient’s natural flavours, allowing them to shine through without overpowering sweetness. By focusing on flavour first, I aim to create desserts that leave a memorable and satisfying impression on the palate.

Q. What are some common misconceptions people have about being a pastry chef?

A. That is an easy job! Which is not the case! The reality involves long hours and extensive preparation, often under pressure to deliver exceptional desserts. At Eataly, I have the challenge of ingredient availability due to products coming from Italy, staying updated with new products and seasonal menus, and overseeing a team with various tasks and responsibilities. Understanding the strengths of each team member, from their speed and precision to organisation skills, is crucial for smooth operations. Being a pastry chef is multifaceted, requiring expertise in various areas such as working with yeast, cakes, and mousses, making it a complex and demanding role. Maintaining cleanliness and organisation in our section is essential, adding another layer of responsibility to our already demanding job. Overall, being a pastry chef entails much more than just baking! It requires dedication, skill, and the ability to thrive in a fast-paced and challenging environment.

Q. What advice would you offer to aspiring pastry chefs who are just starting their culinary journey?

A. The key is to have a genuine passion and love for pastry – this is essential not only for yourself but for creating great desserts! Hone in on your precision, attention to detail, and organisation skills. These form the foundation of pastry artisanry. Keep practising, researching, and seeking inspiration from your surroundings. Be prepared to receive compliments and criticism, and do not be discouraged; instead, view it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. The long hours and commitment required in this profession, but bringing delight to others and witnessing your creations come to life is incredibly fulfilling. For me, it is the most fantastic job!

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