As the months progresses, the end-of-year festivities are closer, a season where pastry delights are in each event we attend. Which is why in this edition we have invited a pastry chef that since he was a child, felt great motivation to learn everything about the art of pastry. Born in David, Chiriqui, he grew up in a house where his mother and grandmother prepared cakes and muffins on every birthday. This influence led him to see pastry as an opportunity to develop his skills and to work with great Chefs such as Charlie Collins and Jorge Jurado, who taught him much of what he applies in his recipes today. The talent of Pastry Chef David Mendoza has led him to work in recognized places such as the Hotel Panamonte, La Crema y Nata, Restaurante Colibri, La Coralina Island House, and on this occasion to give an exclusive interview to share his knowledge about pastry in Panama.
What role does gastronomy play in order for the Visitor to have unforgettable experience in their memory?
“For me it is very important that you always surprise and innovate in each of the creations that are presented to a diner. It is the formula so that a Visitor can try a new flavor and add one more good memory of their experience in our country.
The best of all is that we have incredible ingredients and recipes in Panama, however, the important thing will always be what a Chef can do with it to surprise, a little creativity and technique is always a good start.”
The end of year holidays is an excellent opportunity to show what the pastry offers to diners from all over the world, which desserts you would recommend?
“Personally, I always combined European techniques with Panamanian flavor. I would recommend the panettone with chocolate chips and allspice, new corn pudding, ron punch with geisha coffee, wild anise “cocadas” and bon and saril bread bagel. There is not a single diner, whether Panamanian or from any part of the world, who does not surrender to these delicious desserts.”
Our country is a mix of cultures, and shows it in the culinary specialties., is this replicated in Panamanian pastries?
“Personally, I always try to do it, however something very particular happens, the general public always opts for traditional desserts such as cheesecake, flan, etc. But we have very interesting national desserts, I would say that we have to dare to have this type of traditional desserts on our menus.
For a time, I was the Pastry Chef at Charlie Collins where I learned to use many local products in desserts, but in general we do not have Panamanian desserts because we are afraid that the public will not buy them, and of course, it is also a business and you want to sell everything you make as much as possible. We have to dare and bet on what is ours too.”
How can we elevate our classic Panamanian pastries to create unique sensory experiences?
“In Panama we do not have desserts that characterize us as purely Panamanian because they always have many influences such as Chinese, French, Spanish or Arabic. However, we can elevate our classic Panamanian pastries with techniques from other European countries. It can be French “macarons” with sea grape or Jack fruit or with jobo. It also plays an important role in Panama in being able to get some ingredients that can be found throughout South America to Central America, however there are some that are native to Panama which gives a unique taste to the dessert. Using these local products we can create many new desserts, pastries and breads for people’s palates.
As for the classics, you can make new versions with local influence such as born mousse, stuffed puff pastries or banana cake – plantita.
To close, Panama has two very valuable products such as chocolate, which is of high quality, and Geisha coffee, considered the best in the world. With both it is possible to create many desserts that I am sure would create new experiences for the tourist’s senses.
Photos courtesy: Chef David Mendoza