Yes, Chef! Holger Deh, Founder of Essentia Patisserie
Hong Kong/ Delish/ Desserts & Snacks

Yes, Chef! Holger Deh, Founder of Plant-Based Bakery, Essentia Patisserie

Yes Chef Holger Deh of Essentia Patisserie

Asia is one food-crazy continent! We take great care to pick restaurants based on culinary vibes, rankings on international gourmand guides, mentions in magazines, Instagramability, and added hunger. Yes, Chef! features the region’s chefs' stories of love and labour in kitchens that has made some of our restaurants the next big thing in Asia.

From Germany to the United States, Malaysia to Spain, Macau to Hong Kong, pastry chef Holger Deh has baked salivatory-worthy pastries for hungry mouths across four continents in over three decades.

Founding Essentia Patisserie by Holger Deh in December 2021, the eponymous pastry chef sparked a revolution in Hong Kong as the first patisserie to bake and sell 100% plant-based sweet goods to market.

We are fiends for crunchy, sweet, and fruity pastries at The Beat Asia, So, we relished an opportunity to speak with the former Rosewood Hotel legend Holger on the local success of Essentia Patiserrie, his story of baking across the world, working with the finest hotels of Hong Kong, and what 2023 has to offer for his brand.

Morning Holger, pleasure to meet you. Let’s start from the top. What first drew you to the art of pastry-making within the competitive food and beverage space?

In my early years of my career, I completed two apprenticeships in my home nation of Germany. One as a chef at the age of 12 years old, and one as a pastry chef at 16 within 5 years of leaving school to study economics at university, and national service at 21.

During those years, my knowledge and experience expanded in both areas, creating savoury and sweet dishes for consumption, but I couldn’t decide which path to take!

The opportunity came for me to explore outside Germany, working [a] three-Michelin-starred restaurant called Tristán, in Mallorca Spain, the Datai Langkawi resort in Malaysia, hotels in United States, Jordan, Macau, and finally Hong Kong. At that time, I felt there was a lack of space for pastry chefs and it gave me better opportunities to bake and create. My interest in design, flexibility and colours, the aspects of art making, drew me to this passion.

With your previous work at Rosewood, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons and Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, how do you strive to constantly innovate in the pastry world?

Given the opportunity to work in different regions, this cultural education has helped me to observe the demographic needs of each place and constantly experiment with product availability.

I was the first in China who had the privilege to launch the Or Noir project, a customized chocolate blend, with Cacao Barry. This path led me to the Or Noir Lab in Paris, France, where I created my own customized chocolate blend and new products before launching to market.

There are many great chefs in the industry which I admire for their work that also continuously push myself to constantly innovate.

What emboldened you to dedicate your work to leave your positions working at hotels to begin creating 100% plant-based pastries with Essentia? What challenges have you faced in this journey?

I had a conversation with a vegan couple over tea some years ago. They rose the issue of a lack of plant-based choice of pastries in Hong Kong and the region. From this point, I did some research and got hooked into solving this issue.

The first big challenge was to find the right ingredients. Starting with the basics, such as plant-based butter and plant-based milk. Most plant-based milk on the market contains a lot of sugar, same as many other basic ingredients.

It was and still is hard to work on low-sugar pastries as most of the base ingredients already contain sugar. Due to the pandemic and shortage of some ingredients, I was forced to go new ways with ingredients availability. That has pushed and challenged the plant-based pastries [that are being sold] today in our shops. One of the biggest challenges till today is the inconsistency of product availability to produce plant-based pastries for our Pacific Place and IFC Mall stores.

How has Essenita and your plant-based creations been received in the Hong Kong market?

In general, we have received great comments for our creations, and I had the chance to meet [likeminded] people for a plant-based future. Due to this, we were able to open a second pop up shop in this difficult time of the pandemic.

You can only eat one pastry for the rest of your life. What are you picking?

That is very difficult. I believe it should be something with chocolate. The obvious would be a Mille Feuille, but I would tend to a simple high quality dark chocolate bar.

What is your next chapter for Essentia in 2023?

There are many possibilities for 2023. I would like to see expanding our portfolio and tap deeper into the business-to-business market.

Thanks for speaking with us, Holger.

My pleasure, Rubin.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Yes, Chef! profiles here

Subscribe to The Beat's newsletter to receive compelling, curated content straight to your inbox! You can also create an account with us for free to start bookmarking articles for later reading.

This Week's Events In Hong Kong View more

Sign up to receive updates on what's going on in the city. Don't miss out on exciting events, news, and more. Sign up today!

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice
Thank you for subscribing! Click here if you were not redirected.