Executive pastry chef Richard Long at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore tells us how he and his team balance consistency and innovation in everything they do.
The first order of business for Richard Long when he gets to work? “Responding to work emails,” says the executive pastry chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore. An occupational hazard that comes with the job that’s a tad ironic, since the 54-year-old chef snagged a gig as an apprentice at a local bakery precisely because he didn’t “like the idea of a desk-bound job” after finishing secondary school.
“It was during this time that I discovered my passion for baking and pastry making and decided to continue to hone my skills to be a pastry chef,” Long adds. And hone he did – across a career spanning five countries and 30 years, the last 20 of which were spent with The Ritz-Carlton.
Dealing with emails therefore is an unavoidable occupational hazard that comes with the territory. There are perks too – Long’s day starts at 7.30am, rather than the crack of dawn (or even earlier), as he’s checking on the items served during breakfast service at Colony and Colony Bakery rather than preparing them. There’s a further check on the bakes before lunch, at around 10.30am.
After all, customers at hotel bakeries demand unerring consistency. There’s no leeway for error, and production quantities are on an entirely different scale. Long tells us that his team is capable of producing up to “a hundred different types of breads and cakes in a day”.
These must be made perfectly every time – hence the twice-daily checks. After that though, the chef turns his attention to renewal of the roster, dedicating the rest of his day to ideation, experimentation and recipe development for new pastries.
“It is crucial to truly enjoy what you do, because passion can impact the quality and outcome of your bakes,” says the chef, who’s been head honcho here since 2020, on how he and his team continue to provide excellent grub, day by day. That, and “a positive attitude”. “Most importantly, it’s the process and your heart. If you are happy, the end product is good,” he adds simply. “Don’t bake if you are in a bad mood. Happy bakers make happy food.”
Balance is at the centre of the chef’s bakes – some of his personal favourites include the Hazelnut Praline Cake, which sees the nutty overtones of praline cream and caramelised hazelnuts counterpointed by yuzu cremeux; and the Salted Coconut Gela Melaka Cake, where the locavore flavours are brought into stark relief with a healthy hit of salt.
That said, Long isn’t afraid to admit that he isn’t done growing as a chef. “Learning is a lifelong process,” he tells us. “And only through the desire to learn new techniques and explore new ideas will we be able to improve ourselves and create more unique bakes for our guests.”
And if that growth means sitting through some emails every morning, so be it.