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Bakers Bunny with Sebastian Kobelt
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Let Us Eat Cake and Chocolate!

When I think of German cakes, I think Konditormeister and seven years of training. So what makes an East German boy take up pâtisserie?That is one of the questions I put to Linlithgow based, Sebastian Kobelt.

"My grandfather was a baker and when I was little I used to bake with him. I knew from an early age I would bake; I never wanted to do anything else. I was never going to be a baker in the true sense of the word. Making bread was always going to be a challenge as they started at four in the morning. I liked to lie in so making cakes was a better option as I didn't have to start until five"

His grandfather was a huge influence on the young Sebastian and by the time the Wall came down, he was in his early twenties. Having mastered several languages at school and, like many East German's, the world was now laid open to him and travel was compelling.

"I worked on cruise ships for a time as head of pastry. From there I went to Ireland and the Middle East. It was while I was there I was offered a position in Scotland. With no ties, I headed here and started at Dalhousie Castle in Midlothian, just a stone's throw from the centre of Edinburgh. After two years there, it was time for a change, I was asked to be head pastry chef at RBS during Fred the Shred's regime. In 2008 I joined Tom Kitchin's team for three years and helped open Castle Terrace in 2010."

With a stage at the Fat Duck, Sebastian was inspired to set out on his own.

"In 2011, I took my first steps at being self-employed doing consultancy for over a year, working with Cameron House Hotel, Prestonfield House and The Balmoral. Through my consultancy work, I built up some good relationships and in 2012 I started supplying them with chocolates to accompany their afternoon teas and as complimentary treats in the bedrooms."

Not far from his thoughts, Sebastian has always wanted to open a cafe.

"Ideally I'd like to open somewhere in Edinburgh where I can serve a restaurant-style dessert tasting menu. I think there is a niche for this. For the moment, I'll continue with my wee shop on Linlithgow High Street, until I find the right place."

Along with the chocolates, Sebastian also has an amazing selection of entremets (the original meaning is French for 'between servings', in today's terms, it's a multi-layered mousse-based cake with various complementary flavours and varying textural contrasts), and several preserves.So where does he get his ideas from?

"There are ideas everywhere! From new products within the industry, client requests, working and improving past ideas. Trends come from small artisans that the big companies pick up on and then you'll see it everywhere. Seasonality is a huge resource; last year I used rapeseed with strawberry, spraying the cakes bright yellow to represent the rapeseed fields."

With chocolate and cakes his staple, which does he prefer to work with?

"They are different mediums; there are good things about both. With cakes, there is more scope to be creative with flavour. With chocolate, you have to take the different characteristics into account. Flavours that are fantastic with white chocolate might not work with a 70% Pur Noir and vice versa. The main thing is to create a memory. Smell and taste act as triggers capturing a special moment, creating a lasting impression whenever that aroma or flavour hits the senses. It's about pleasure."

Working with all things sweet, the next question has to be,'Sweet or Savoury?'

"Oh definitely savoury, but Vivian, my other half, loves sweet. I'm in trouble, if at the end of the day, I don't have some chocolate or cake for her!"

I'd be the same! Apart from opening a dessert bar in Edinburgh,what else does Sebastian hope for the future?

"I'd love to have a production system whereby I can step back and play with flavour, texture and design. Innovation takes time and sometimes that creative streak has to take a back seat. With more time, I could have fun with some more obscure and wacky ingredients. This industry is always evolving, there is always something new to learn. That's part of the charm of cooking and baking, you never stop discovering."

When asked about awards, Sebastian is modestly humble.

"I was luckily enough to reach the finals of the World Chocolate Masters. I'm also a German Chocolate Master and earlier in May I received Pâtissier of the Year from the Scottish Food Awards, which came out of the blue. I'm doing something right!"


I don't think luck has much to do with it; hard work, determination and skill more like!

And finally, who are Sebastian's food heroes?

"People who are passionate inspire me, but my grandfather has to be the most influential. Without his nurturing and encouragement, I wouldn't be doing something that I love."

A huge thank you to Sebastian for his time and an even bigger thank you to his grandfather for giving us a fantastically talented pâtissier and chocolatier. I, for one, will be at the front of the queue when he finally opens his pudding club in Edinburgh!

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