Laura Petersen – an interview with The Salt Room’s Head Pastry Chef
Laura Petersen is the extremely talented Head Pastry Chef at the award-winning Salt Room restaurant in Brighton. At only 23 years old, she’s worked in the kitchen of Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and more recently at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Now based at The Salt Room, Laura is Brighton’s only Head Pastry Chef. Laura has carved the way in terms of personnel expansion at The Salt Room, whilst acting as executive for the restaurants older sibling, The Coal Shed.
Laura achieved 3rd place in 2016 Chocolate Dessert of the Year, while her inventive take on British seaside classics, incorporating nougat, candy floss, ice cream and doughnuts, culminates in her Taste of the Pier, of which over 10,000 have been sold in less than two years – known as Brighton’s ‘most Instagrammable dessert.’
When did you realise you wanted to become a pastry chef?
“During my gap year before going to study fashion I landed a job at The Ginger Pig in Hove and discovered a passion for pastry being a nice skill and one where I could input my creativity. From there on it is a discipline that I have crafted my passion in.”
Where do you look for inspiration when creating new dishes?
“Seasonal food is my first go to, and takes on things that I like to eat as it always comes across better. Things that have nostalgic memories and childhood favourites and interpret into a playful dessert, such as my Eton ‘no mess’- where you make the mess yourself.”
How many attempts does it take to perfect a dish before it makes the menu?
“Sometimes I can hit the nail on the head first time. Other times it may take a few drafts. We always host a tasting with the team to get everyone’s feedback on a new dish and their criticisms – which I have to take on board!”
Who do you look up to the most in the restaurant industry?
“Angela Harnett, as she is a strong woman who got to where she wanted by cooking food with no fuss. I really want to go and eat at her restaurant when I move to our new restaurant, The Coal Shed in London.”
What was it like to work for Raymond Blanc?
“I worked a week’s work experience with his team at Le Manoir. It was daunting as it was only the second kitchen that I had stepped into, but I learnt how to organise a kitchen to run like clockwork! He looks after his team really well to get the best results. I was lucky enough to eat at the end with my parents, which was a memorable experience.”
What struggles have you come across as a young chef
“The hours are very long, and when a lot of my friends were students going out all the time I was always working double shifts, bank holidays and weekends. So a balance of work and social life can be hard. But it is all worth it in the end.”
What are some pieces of advice you’ve been given that you’ll never forget?
“Every day is a school day – you are constantly learning new skills. Also – make it nice or make it twice!”
And what advice would you give to other young chefs looking for success?
“If it is seriously something that you want to do, then believe in yourself and use every opportunity that comes your way to learn and better yourself.”
“I am very excited to be taking the lead of pastry at our new site to open in October at One Tower Bridge. It is going to be a new The Coal Shed, and we are very excited to be taking my desserts to London.”
What is your dream dessert?
“Tart au Citron, the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Ironically I don’t like things that are too sweet!”