Pastry chef Eunji Lee demos at ICC

Defining Design in Pastry

By Valeria Pinto, 2019 Pastry Plus Next Gen Winner

One of the most important elements of pastry is the design and execution behind it. Throughout time, pastry chefs have been pushing the boundaries to create desserts that not only look beautiful, but tell stories about who they are and what they feel. At this year’s Pastry Plus Conference at the International Culinary Center, pastry chefs Francisco Migoya and Eunji Lee shared how their experience, background, and creativity impact the ideation process behind any of their creations. They discussed how different elements such as aesthetic, flavor, personal experience and new technologies all play important roles in the creation of their sweet results.

designFrancisco Migoya, Head Chef at Modernist Cuisine in Seattle, explained his thought processes when coming up with new ideas for a pastry. He highlighted how patterns are one of the most important aesthetic elements to think about. Thinking how things work as a group, rather than on their own will help any pastry chef be more creative. Francisco reaffirmed that imperfection in pastries can be very beautiful, and that traditional patterns can be offset by more asymmetrical ones to create different stylistic effects. In his passion fruit dessert, he positions each individual square in a different direction that doesn’t follow a specific pattern. This creates new shapes and shadows in the piece as a whole.


yuzuOn a different note, Francisco talked about thinking outside the box of how an ingredient can be represented in a pastry. Years before, he had created a Yuzu dessert in the shape of a Yuzu fruit, which he later realized was too big of a portion and not easy to share. When remaking this dessert, he thought about the letter Y and all the possible meanings it could stand for. It stands for Yuzu, but can also be interpreted for words such as Why or Yes, or any other personal connotation to it. Francisco mentioned how the actual shape of the letter Y lends itself to be shared, which is the purpose of most pastries. Thinking about shareability and typography can elevate the design and experience someone has with a dessert.

design moldsThe pastry chef panelists also discussed the importance of new technologies such as 3D printing in the process of developing an idea for a pastry. This technology opens up opportunities for unique collaborations between pastry chefs and 3D modelers, designers and artists like never before. By using techniques such as casting, 3D modeling and printing, and 3D scanning, artists and designers can work together with chefs to make their creations edible. Aside from these specific technologies, there are also increasing amounts of molds that open up new ideas for pastry chefs. Finding ideas for the molds you want to design does not have to come only from other pastries, but from unexpected places like tiles, walls, art, and everyday objects that are not associated directly with pastry. They concluded this topic by asking: “Or why use a mold at all?” as there as endless ways to use kitchen and organic objects to create a new pastry or concept.

bread dessertEunji Lee, Pastry Chef at Jungsik in New York, described how she goes from inspiration to the execution of her desserts. At Jungsik, she has a dessert tasting menu that integrates the three most important elements of pastry creation in her life: identity, seasonal ingredients and visual appearance. She mentioned how living in Korea and France both shaped her identity, and how now living in New York has brought new opportunities for her to get inspiration from. Eunji is inspired by traditional Korean shapes and symbols. However, her pieces are modern, clean and visually intriguing. She gives priority to seasonal ingredients in order to have the best availability for fruits and vegetables, along with the freshest flavors. For spring, she created a Bread and Butter dessert. One of the techniques she uses most is deceiving her eaters to think they are eating one thing, and having a surprising seasonal flavor on the inside.


banana'In another dessert, she uses a custom mold to create a banana and coffee dessert with a pastry shaped like an actual small banana. Her intentional use of color, design and element of surprise creates an unforgettable experience for anyone who tries her desserts. Eunji explains how she always starts with the flavors or ingredients she wants for her dish, inspired by her identity and the places she has lived in. Then, she develops an idea to render it in a new, unexpected way that will make the dinners experience the flavors differently.


Both Eunji Lee and Francisco Migoya agreed that inspiration for a dessert can come from unexpected places. For beginners, the best way to get better is to replicate while always giving credit to the sources of your ideas. Once you develop your own style, the most important thing is to make your own vision a reality and have fun with it. Francisco asked the audience: “Why go into such a beautiful career to go and do the same thing [as others]?”

Pastry design is going into new and exciting places with 3D printing, a wide variety of silicone molds and a new trend towards organic flavors and intentional uses of design. Both panelists agreed that color should be used deliberately and not out of wanting to represent the entire color wheel. Elements such as shareability, postion, asymmetry, inspiration from unusual objects, exploration of world flavors, and purposeful use of color can help a pastry chef explore all the possibilities in pastry design. There are no limitations to what you can create when you understand your identity and what you want your customers to experience.

This blog post was originally published by the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. Explore your culinary education where the legacy lives on.

Add new comment