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Pechanga’s Pièce de Résistance Pastry Chef

Pechanga’s Pièce de Résistance Pastry Chef

by Linda Milks

Pechanga Resort and Casino, which is the largest casino in California and is located in Temecula, about an hour north of San Diego, has added a sparkling gem to its already prestigious line-up of excellent and varied chefs. As of March 2015, Jean Jacques Granet joined the team as Executive Pastry Chef. His career has covered several continents and he has acquired skills worthy of acclaim. Diners at Pechanga Resort and Casino benefit from his years of training from some of the most accomplished pastry chefs in the world.

He first trained in Aix-en-Provence with the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (translated as “king of pastries”) and Michelin Star Chef Jean-Marc Banzo, as well as Jacques Chibois at the Gray D’Albion in Cannes.

Determined to acquire skills unique to other parts of the world, Granet was soon off to South America where he worked as Executive Pastry Chef for the Intercontinental Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and later in Caracas, Venezuela, as the Executive Chef for the Tamanaco Hotel.

Granet’s claim to fame came when his attention was piqued by a friend who had moved to the U.S. Granet presented a dessert tasting at the Mansion at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He was selected as Executive Pastry Chef for the hotel and rapidly became Executive Assistant Pastry Chef for all of MGM Grand Resort. Here he oversaw 50 employees as well as eight restaurants and banquet facilities in addition to room service. In 2012, he was named Executive Pastry Chef for the entire Resort, including the Signature Towers, and gained additional responsibility for 1500 hotel rooms.

When I learned of Granet’s background, a friend and I decided it was time to get to know more about Jean Jacques. We sat down with him, armed with lots of questions we wanted answered. The following is our interview with him:

When and how did you decide to be a pastry chef?

When I was 16 and attending outside parties in Marseilles, France, the aromas from down the street drew me to a pastry shop. I began working on Saturdays washing pots. From that small pastry shop, I decided to attend pastry school in Nice, France, where I spent two years in hospitality and one year at the back of the house cooking.

Who was your biggest inspiration?

Once I started moving from restaurant to restaurant, I gained knowledge from each chef and inspiration for my trade.

What has been your biggest career success?

Moving from Argentina to Venezuela and finally to MGM Grand Resort as the Executive Pastry Chef taught me so much about the art of pastry making.

What do you enjoy the most about being a pastry chef?

I enjoy meeting lots of people and traveling the world.

Why did you choose to work at Pechanga?

The opportunity to live in California brought me to Pechanga.

What are you bringing from your past to Pechanga?

I am bringing 28 years of experience.

How do you make a good thing better?

When I started at Pechanga, there was already a good level of quality in the pastry department. What I bring is detail and decorating. I’m bringing my personal style and knowledge. My style can be described as modern with a twist of French.

What vision do you have for Pechanga?

I want to work with local farmers and local crops.

How many assistants work with you at Pechanga?

Twenty-two people work under me.

How much pastry goes through Pechanga?

The buffet serves 2,000 people daily. Blends Coffee & Wine Bar serves 200 breakfasts with 200 smaller pastries during the day. Café Coco requires 5,000 pastries daily. Then, there are the other restaurants and banquet facilities.

What time do you start your day? What is your typical day?

My day begins at 7 a.m. I go to all my employees to gather feedback about the previous day. From there, I attend the Banquet Event Order meeting where we discuss upcoming events. After that, I visit all the restaurants where I create new items or help the staff by showing them new techniques such as decorating. Then I start ordering produce for the next days.

What are some of the trends you see in the field?

There is definitely an increasing demand for gluten-free pastries. I also see a return to classic desserts such as Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake, and Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake.

What are some of the skills that help a pastry chef to succeed?

A pastry chef must be passionate about what he does. He must be skilled with his hands, and he must be creative.

My cohort on this interview loves kitchen gadgets. What are some of your favorite tools of the trade and favorite kitchen gadgets?

The Raplette, a tool to spread and level the cake batter, is indispensable. I like my KitchenAid mixer and blender. One of the most interesting tools is a syphon for making foam atop pastries.

Do you have a favorite ingredient you like to use?

I like to work with chocolate. For the Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar, I have created a new dessert made of ice cream with azuki (red bean paste) which is unusual and tasty.

My partner and I enjoyed the opportunity to visit with such a talented and respected chef. We also welcomed the invitation to indulge in a great cup of coffee and mouth-watering biscotti as an accompaniment. After visiting several of the restaurants and “oohing” and “awing” over the pastries, we vowed we would be back to sample many of these treats.

Photos taken by Linda Stewart.


Posted by Susan Montgomery on Jun 03, 2015