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Licker likes dessert

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

Licker likes dessert

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JASON LICKER’S CHOCOLATE culinary confections are cravings you cannot get enough of. But don’t despair, they are present in his debut cookbook, Lickerland: Asian-Accented Desserts by Jason Licker.

The winner of Iron Chef Thailand Pastry Edition, Jason is all about anything sweet.

The New York native’s foray into cooking came because of a weight problem.

“I was a real chubby kid as my family loved to eat. I went to college to be a high school English teacher and then my mum was diagnosed with cancer, so we started cooking together – low-fat, low-sugar.

“I realized I could make things taste tasty without real butter and so on. My mum passed but I still loved cooking so I went to do an internship at a restaurant and my journey started from there.”

Licker admits his culinary journey started late, at age 20. He had to go to college first, because he had a deal with his dad of graduating college first, then attend cooking school.

His first kitchen was Union Square Café in New York, while training at the French Culinary Institute’s Pastry Arts Programme in 1998.

The pastry chef at the café gave him a “shot”, letting him come in one day a week to gain experience. The problem was someone quit the next day so he worked, for free, six days a week for the whole summer.

“I made so many mistakes and learnt the hard way, but those were what made me stronger,” he told EASY magazine.

Licker was one of five chefs who were here recently for the Barbados Meets The World workshops and events, the brainchild of Bajan chef Jason Howard.

Jason unashamedly said he is a pastry chef (“I can’t cook anything else”) and while he doesn’t like to eat dessert, he favours more acidic and sour fruits like passion fruit, lime, lemon and Asian fruits for his pastry creations.

“I like to balance the sweetness and cut the fat,” he said, giving an example of a lemon meringue pie.

He gravitates towards crunchy-creamy textures and tells upcoming pastry chefs to always think about contrast.

Licker says his recipes are created from mistakes: “I like messing up stuff . . . a lot. I did a white chocolate sake dessert that came about because I was making a white chocolate panna cotta and I got confused between sake and simple syrup and when I tasted it I said, ‘mmmm’.”

Licker picks up weird ingredients and does a lot of trial and error.

He moved to China in 2005, after being told by his accountant that he was broke. He was 29 and working in a 5-star hotel in New York. It was either leave NY or leave the country.

Licker sent out resumes and heard from Shanghai; Santiago, Chile; and Mexico.

He was flown out to Asia to do a food-tasting and in the 12 years since since then he has worked at The Westin Bund in Shanghai, The Venetian Macau Hotel and Resort, The JW Marriott Hong Kong and was the former corporate pastry chef of Cé La Vi restaurants (Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore).

His passion for pastry, life and travel has taken him across the globe for a true culinary experience, cooking for Enrique Iglesias, Anna Kournikova and others of that ilk.

Licker said he is happy to pass on his knowledge, and is now based in Miami, moving home last February to freelance.

“My celebrity to cook for would be world-renowned chef Pierre Herme. As you want to show off, saying, ‘Look, this is what I am doing’,” he said.

Licker’s signature dish? A molten green tea tart. Go figure. (NS)