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Dee Rettali (51) founded Patisserie Organic in London in 1998. She opened Fortitude Bakhuis with her partner Jorge Fernandez, founder of Fernandez and Wells, in 2018.
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
To be a poet. It was something I absolutely lived for, especially Irish poetry. I wrote every day from the age of nine until I left at 18.
Where did you go to school? Where did you practice?
A Catholic girls’ school in a small town in County Cork. I came to London when I was 18 years old. I started working at Stanfords, the map shop on Long Acre, and I went to South Bank University to study cartography and surveying. But I was not mathematical and two years later I got lost why I was there. I always cooked – if there was an occasion at Stanfords, I would cook for it. I saw an ad he was looking for with Justin de Blank students. I worked there seven days a week – it was scary and I was exhausted. I ran away at one point.
What was the first dish you learned to cook?
Who was or still is your mentor?
I am a stubborn, like-minded person. I really admire people I have worked with, but I will not see any of them in that particular role.
How physically fit are you?
I am very, very strong. I can still do very long shifts. I have incredibly strong torso when I carry bags of flour.
Breakfast or dinner: which one?
Dinner. If I have to get up very early, I can never enjoy breakfast.
What technique did you struggle to perfect?
Many cooking techniques – for lack of confidence. The patisserie side I found very easily. I’m interested in butchery – it was something I could hardly find. This is a real skill.
What fragrance always pleases you?
Orange flower water. It evokes many memories: people use it so rarely.
What taste can you not like?
Saffron and pine nuts.
What equipment can you not do without?
My mixer of 40 liters.
What would you like to own that you do not currently own?
Country. Somewhere I could build a house – a small harbor, a house I could share with other people. I like hospitality outside a restaurant.
What is your biggest extravagance?
It used to be plane tickets. I love traveling and I would have a whim, which is a bad thing to do as it costs a lot.
Are you considering food waste?
Yes, largely, and it’s a big part of my business.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate and cream. I now have a gluten intolerance because I’ve been in the industry for so long, but I’ll eat pastries if it’s good.
In what place are you happiest?
Marrakesh. My kids are half-Moroccan, and when I end up there, I immediately feel at home.
Who or what makes you laugh?
My three grown children, who spend a lot of time mocking me and my accent and telling me about all the crazy things I have done to them over the years.
What ambitions do you still have?
To open a eatery, rather than a bakery. I love to cook and I do not think I show it enough. Also to open a guest house, returning to the country and the growing and the hospitality.
What is the happiest aspect of your life so far?
It must be especially the people I met my friend Jorge.
What was your biggest kitchen disaster?
I had a few. When I was training to become a patisserie, we made big chocolate cake bowls. We use a 72 liter mixer-u can suggest that it is quite substantial. I was told to pour the liquid chocolate into the other ingredients. I turned on the machine without checking the speed. Everything was covered. Everywhere. I including.
What would she think if your 20-year-old self could see you now?
She would probably be surprised at the profession, but she would think, “Well done, and stop making yourself so hard!”
Do you see yourself as an artist?
I consider myself an artisan or a craftsman.
What would you achieve if you rated your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10?
Ten. Warts and all.
“Baking with Fortitude” by Dee Rettali will be released on October 28 by Bloomsbury
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