Twenty-three year old Carmen Eksteen, an alumni chef from The Private Hotel School in Stellenbosch has celebrated the new year with the tremendously exciting news that she will be winging her way to New York to work for world renowned pastry chef Dominique Ansel.
Ansel (43) is a French-born pastry chef and owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City. Since its opening in November 2011, the chef’s eponymous bakery has become known for many signature creations including the Cronut, Cookie Shot, Frozen S’mores and many other pastries. He is also the chef/owner of Dominique Ansel Kitchen in New York, Dominique Ansel Bakery Japan in Tokyo, Dominique Ansel Bakery London, Dominique Ansel Bakery Los Angeles and 189 by Dominique Ansel, also in LA.
In April 2017, Ansel was named the World’s Best Pastry Chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, making him the youngest and only US-based chef to be awarded the honour. So it’s no wonder that Eksteen is beside herself with excitement at the prospect of working for Ansel.
From a young age, Carmen had a huge sweet tooth and never wanted to eat her food. Having a passion for baking and, especially pastry, is a understatement. She took consumer studies at school and she just knew that she wanted to be a pastry chef. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. Pastry is not just my job, but my hobby as well.”
In 2015, after graduating from The Private Hotel School, she started her internship at The Tasting Room in Franschhoek where she worked for a year and learned from the head chef, Gerald van der Wald. In 2016 Carmen moved to The Birdcage, a bakery in Stellenbosch, learning how to bake cakes and pastries. Last year she did a three month internship at La Creuzette in France where she gained amazing experience.
Dominique Ansel has always been her pastry icon. When working in France she sent her CV to their bakery in New York. A week before she was due to come back to SA, she got a email from Dominique’s Executive Pastry chef and a week laer they offered Carmen a 12 month contract to work for them as a pastry chef.
“The distance between your dreams and reality is called actions. Step out of your comfort zone, nothing usually grows there,” Carmen concludes.