Winding Roads

Poetry Of Patisserie

Elevating cake-making to a fine art, Paris-based pâtissiere Andrea Sham’s fantastical creations grace some of the city’s finest restaurants and are sought-after centrepieces for special events. She tells us how nature is always at the very heart of her work.

Anne-Claire Heraud

How did your creative/kitchen journey begin?
I’m self taught. I never thought I’d work in the food industry. Growing up I was mostly painting, sculpting and listening to a lot of music. I was working in a juice bar when my manager asked me to create some vegan and gluten-free cakes. When I started my company, I was pretty afraid as I didn’t study food or business, but it was the signal I was waiting for at that point, so I took the challenge.
Cooking for me is a moment of peace, pleasure and meditation. It’s also a place where I don’t mind making mistakes. I just try things and always feel I can learn from them and improve them.

What inspires your table creations and recipes?
Nature, art in many forms, colours, mysticism and spiritual teachings are what give me inspiration, the courage and the joy of continuing to create. It’s what gives sense to my work and what makes it alive to me.

Which themes reoccur in your work?
The theme of nature is very present, as you can see through my work. Also, poetry and the profoundness of spiritual teachings are at the very beginning of my process.

How do you develop new ideas for recipes and designs?
When I see a picture of something, or when I hear about something, then an idea pops up into my mind and I keep it safe in my notebook until I have time to make it. Another way is just through visualisations that appear in my mind. Those are quite hard to manifest as they’re very ethereal, but I guess it gives a flavour to my work.
Finally, I’m of course inspired by other creators, chefs, visual artists, musicians, and other cultures.

“Nature inspires me with its incredible forms and colours. It feels always new”

What are the key elements of your tablescapes?
The food ingredients. I pay attention to the provenance, taking care they are as local as possible. I make a lot of vegan food or at least I try to lighten the animal products as they are not good for the environment nor for the animals.

For the decor I’m very aware of everything around me and I go to a few shops here in Paris to select tableware. I also like to visit flower and plant shops, but will also head to the parks and forests around Paris and pick my own flowers and plants that way.

How does nature play a role in your life and your work?
Nature heals my mind, which can be very anxious and dark sometimes. It soothes it and teaches me observation and stillness. It inspires me with its incredible forms and colours. It feels always new, always beautiful and so alive. I think nature is pure love.

Which part of the world is home to you?
Sometimes everywhere feels home, and sometimes I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. I was born in Venezuela, from a Chinese father and a Portuguese mother. We moved to Paris, where I still live, when I was 12. My family was looking for a better life as Venezuela was becoming a very dangerous place to live. Growing up in all that diversity of cultures made me feel a part of it and gives me the consciousness that we are all one.

How does your city inspire you?
Paris is a very beautiful city with a lot of diversity and abundance, you can find the best of almost everything. These days, Paris inspires me the most by the food markets. So much creativity and new chefs have arisen in the last ten years. Though I have lived here for 20 years, I’m still discovering places and areas I’ve never heard of. And that’s very refreshing and exciting: the feeling that you can be a tourist in your own town.
As beautiful as Paris can be, I dream of living in the countryside and having a big garden!

What to you makes a beautiful and balanced space?
There is too much food in my personal interior style… I like to keep it clean and spacious, which can be quite hard as I’m always cooking. I have a lot of props for my work and also many objects that come from flea markets. And of course many plants and flowers. I think that a beautiful and balanced space comes from a good source of light, a clean and spacious space, not too much furniture, so the eyes and the mind can rest.

What are your favourite objects in your home and why?
I have some ceramics from ceramists that became friends, which I really appreciate and enjoy using or observing. I love that they are handmade and touching the fingerprints within them.

What does the winter season bring to you and your work?
Camellias, anemones, ranunculus, tulips and hellebores. Regarding food, I’m always excited about the winter season as we can find pink and yellow radicchio, and lots of colourful radishes, cabbages and squashes. Sister winter brings the most beautiful and vibrant colours.
What I love is the feeling of being home, feeling warm and secure. It has not always been the case as I moved a lot in my early life, and I went through difficult times regarding the places I lived in. I always feel so grateful that I have a home where I can rest and feel secure, as not everyone in the world has it. Winter has a very magical feeling, with Christmas, the snow and warm dinners with family and friends. But I never forget to feel grateful for all I have now.

What are you most looking forward to this season?
I moved with my husband into our apartment last February. My husband is a designer and enjoys making furniture using second hand materials. It takes time and we think twice before making any decision, so we’ll be working on that!

See Andrea’s creations @andrea.sham