Chocolate Industry

Dee Rettali: “I would like to build a little haven of peace that I can share with others”

Newsletter: FT Weekend

Dee Rettali, 51, founded Patisserie Organic in London in 1998. She opened Fortitude Bakery with his partner Jorge Fernandez, founder of Fernandez and Wells, in 2018.

What was your childhood or your first ambition?
To be a poet. It was something I absolutely experienced, especially Irish poetry. I wrote every day from the age of nine until I left school at 18.

Where did you go to school Where did you train?
A Catholic school for girls in a small town in County Cork. I arrived in London when I was 18. I started working at Stanfords, the Long Acre map store, and went to South Bank University to study mapping and surveying. But I was not mathematical and two years later I did not understand why I was there. I had always cooked – if there was an event at Stanfords, I would cook for it. I saw an ad looking for interns with Justin de Blank. I was working there seven days a week, it was terrifying and I was exhausted. I ran away at one point.

What was the first dish you learned to cook?
Milk rice.

Who was or still is your mentor?
I am a stubborn and determined person. I really admire the people I’ve worked with, but I wouldn’t see any of them in this particular role.

Are you in good physical shape?
I am very, very strong. I can still work very long shifts. I have incredible upper body strength carrying bags of flour.

Breakfast or dinner: which one?
Having dinner. If I have to get up very early, I never have my breakfast.

What technique did you have trouble perfecting?
Many cooking techniques – for lack of confidence. The pastry side that I found really easy. I am interested in the butcher’s shop, it is something that I had difficulty in mastering. It is a real skill.

What flavor do you still like?
Orange tree Flower water. It evokes a lot of memories: people use it so rarely.

What flavor can’t you stand?
Saffron and pine nuts.

What equipment could you not do without?
My 40 liter mixer.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently have?
Earth. Somewhere I could build a house – a little haven, a house that I could share with other people. I like hospitality outside of a restaurant.

What’s your biggest extravaganza?
Before, it was plane tickets. I love to travel and will leave on a whim which is a bad thing to do as it is expensive.

Do you consider food waste?
Yes, overwhelmingly, and that’s a huge part of my business.

What is your culinary culinary pleasure?
Chocolate and cream. I now have gluten intolerance from being in the industry for so long, but I will eat pastry if it tastes good.

Where are you the happiest?
Marrakech. My children are half Moroccan, and when I land there, I immediately feel at home.

Who or what are you laughing at?
My three grown kids, who spend a lot of time laughing at me and my accent, and talking about all the crazy things I’ve done to them over the years.

What ambitions do you still have?
Open a restaurant rather than a bakery. I love to cook and I don’t think I show it enough. Also to open a guest house, reminiscent of the land and culture and hospitality.

What’s the luckiest aspect of your life so far?
It must be the people I have met, especially my partner Jorge.

What has been your biggest cooking disaster?
I’ve had a few. When I was training as a pastry chef, we made huge platters of chocolate cake. We would use a 72 liter mixer – you can imagine that’s pretty substantial. I was told to decant the liquid chocolate into the other ingredients. I turned on the machine without checking the speed. Everything was covered. All over. Including me.

If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would she think?
She would probably be surprised in terms of occupation, but she would think, “Well done and stop giving yourself a hard time!” “

Do you consider yourself an artist?
I see myself as a craftsman or a craftsman.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would your score be?
Ten. Warts and all.

“Baking with Fortitude” by Dee Rettali is published by Bloomsbury on October 28

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