When I last met Jason Licker, he was sitting at a café in front of a computer, finalising photo selections and proofs for Lickerland: Asian Accented Desserts, his debut cookbook. A year prior to the project, he was working as the consulting pastry chef at Ce La Vi, which became known for its signature matcha tart that topped Instagram posts since the restaurant opened. And now, the seasoned pastry chef has just self-published his first book, a 316-page volume with every dessert detailed and explained, illustrated by photos from esteemed food photographer Jason Lang. We sat down with chef Licker over morning coffee to get a glimpse into what really went on in Lickerland.
“When there is an opportunity like this, you either go big or go home,” said Licker, who began his career with an internship at New York’s Union Square Café. After working with the trade’s authority figures such as Charlie Palmer, Jean-Georges, and Nobu, Licker moved to Asia and took up a pastry chef position at JW Marriott, before becoming the consulting pastry chef for Ce La Vi Worldwide. While working abroad in Bangkok, Jason Licker went on compete at the Iron Chef television programme. “Being in the Iron Chef programme is great, but winning it with a dessert is awesome,” recalled Licker. It affirmed his talent for masterfully crafting desserts with Asian-inspired ingredients and concepts—ones that inspired the cookbook itself.
To create Lickerland, Jason Licker teamed up with photographer Jason Lang, whose work covers the pages of Monocle, GQ Britain, and Saveur magazine in the United States. The cookbook covers recipes developed by the chef over his international career, with exact measurements and ingredient guides for the average home cook who may not be as inclined to follow recipes down to a T. Here are 10 essential things we found out about his latest sweet creation.
I call this book ‘Lickerland’ because it is equal part bittersweet journey to become a pastry chef, and equal part a glimpse into the creative playground that goes on inside my head when I create pastry and desserts.
Readers should learn about food by first understanding their palate. I like to use the metaphor of lemon tarts. First you taste sweet and sour, and the more you exercise your palate determining the intensity of sweetness and tartness, and the texture of pastry, the filling, and the balance of it all, you will learn more about lemon tarts, and how to determine the good and bad ones, just like any other food.
The road to pastry is about perseverance. Creating pastry is not just about rolling dough and adding sugar, but about the balance on the palate and through life.
One needs to discover by experience, trials, and errors. Believing in goals and taking the leap of faith are important too, but essentially it is more than accessing things from Internet and knowing about it.
Using common sense is the rule of thumb. If something does not feel right in a recipe, it probably isn’t.
There is no such thing as “secret recipe”, nor should there be. Chances are you’d copy it off somewhere at a given time.
Recipes are manuals to guide you along, rules you can live by but not laws that are set in stone. You learn the basics and how to execute them first before you get creative with them.
The Chocolate Caramel and Passion Fruit Cake is a recipe close to my heart. We created it at the spur of a moment during a cooking competition in China, adding the passion fruit, and this simple dessert won the gold medal.
Balance is all it takes, like the white chocolate junmai dessert created at Ce La Vi. It has a touch of herb from shiso gelee, sweet berries, sake, and creaminess from white chocolate. You will find a lot of recipes that look complex, but there are reasons why they are that way. You want to have a bit of everything in each bite.
There is no room to mess up when it comes to baking. Precision is key, which is why you should always use a gram scale, and measure everything. Once you learn the know-how, you can exercise your creativity and play around.
Lickerland: Asian-Accented Desserts is now available online here.
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