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Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel

  • 71 Boulevard du Général de Gaulle, Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat , 06230, France
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Florent Margaillan

Pastry Chef
“I want to give our guests something that they can’t experience anywhere else.”

 

Four Seasons Tenure

  • First hired 2008; now since 2018
  • First Four Seasons Assignment: Patissier, Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris

Employment History

  • Hôtel Royal Mansour, Marrakech, Morocco; L’Apogée Courchevel, Château Saint Martin et Spa, France; Restaurant Lasserre, Paris; Hôtel du Castellet, France; Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris; Hotel Ritz Paris

Birthplace

  • Briançon, France

Education

  • Brevet de Technicien Supérieur, Lycée Hôtelier Lesdiguières, Grenoble, France

Languages Spoken

  • French, English

Florent Margaillan doesn’t need to look far for inspiration at Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel. “I like my pastries to be like the Hotel,” says the Pastry Chef, who arrived at the palace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at the start of summer 2018. “The views and the gardens here are so beautiful, and the Hotel has real elegance and charm. I try to relate all of those things through my creations.”

And he succeeds. Working in the pastry kitchen, Margaillan and his team of 16 chefs fashion desserts for three restaurants, including Michelin-starred Le Cap, the chic French Riviera bistro La Véranda, and Club Dauphin next to the Hotel’s famous swimming pool. They also cover the in-room dining menu as well as banqueting for onsite social gatherings and events.

Margaillan likes his creations to be “genuine and authentic,” the better to relay the true identity of their central ingredients. “A strawberry must taste like a strawberry,” he says. He prefers to keep things simple “yet very gourmet,” and he uses sugar sparingly. “For me, sugar is like salt in the kitchen,” he explains. “I add it only to highlight taste.”

Result? Pastry that is beautiful on the plate, light on the dessert fork, and balanced on the palate. “Dessert is meant to be a delight at the end of dinner. It mustn’t be too loud.”

The key to his success lies in exceptional ingredients. While Margaillan utilises beautiful fruits from the Hotel’s gardens, most come from local producers. He keeps in close contact with and often visits farmers throughout the south of France, of which, he says, “there is an abundance.”

Though particularly fond of citrus, he works with anything seasonal – apricots in summer, apples and peaches in early fall, and on and on – playing off the pure flavour as well as the actual shape of the ingredient. “When I use rhubarb, I don’t like to puree it,” he says, by way of example. “I work with the fruit itself.”

His main goal is for each pastry to have a unique identity and uncommon taste. “I want to give our guests something that they can’t experience anywhere else.” There are endless varieties of apples grown in the south of France, he notes: “I want to find the local producers who are growing little jewels that our guests are not familiar with.”

With the demands of three restaurants, Margaillan runs a tight ship in the pastry kitchen. Even still, he is careful about putting pressure on his team. “For my people to follow my vision, they need to be in a good state of mind. After all, when you think about it, they’re spending as much time here making pastry as they are with their families.”

His experience leading the pastry kitchen at a luxury address in Marrakech before joining the Grand-Hôtel taught him a lot about management, he says. “It’s different from Europe, more relaxed down there,” he says, adding with a laugh, “things can get tense in kitchens in France. That wouldn’t work in Morocco.”

Margaillan always wanted to make pastry. Growing up in Briançon, which, at 1,300-plus metres (4,300 feet) in the Alps is the highest city in France, his parents cultivated fruit trees and vegetables and he caught fresh fish from nearby rivers. “So I always had a good sensibility for flavour.”

There were no chefs in his family, so Margaillan began baking as a hobby. He can still remember the first cake he made. “It was a lemon yogurt cake.” And the second? “That one was more difficult. It was a Black Forest cake.”

His talents grew through a string of assignments in pastry kitchens at luxury hotels, many of them Michelin starred. Perhaps no assignment did more to get him going early on than the two-year turn he took at Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris. “That was my first home, where I really got the basis for my career,” he remembers. “So coming back to lead a pastry kitchen for Four Seasons is very rewarding for me.”

As his talents and responsibilities grew, so did recognitions. In 2010, he won the Championnat de France du Dessert in the professional category. Two years later he placed third in the Mondial des Arts Sucrés. And in 2015, while working in Morocco, Margaillan was finalist in Un des Meilleurs Ouvrier de France, the legendary trade competition held every four years by the French Ministry of Labour.

Now feeling right at home along the French Riviera, Margaillan lives a “very epicurean” lifestyle, enjoying walks through villages, dining at local restaurants, and taking in cultural institutions with his wife and their little boy as opportunities arise. “On work days, I roll out of bed and I can’t wait to get into the kitchen. And on my time off, I can’t wait to explore.”