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Interview with Yana Todorova: realized pastry chef in the USA and Bulgarian winner of Les Vergers Boiron competition

1. Hi Jana, it is a great pleasure to do this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up in America and how did you make it as a pastry chef there?

Hi, it's my pleasure too. I was born in Sofia and at 17 my family and I moved to Mexico. I come from a family of mathematicians and in 2005 I went to the USA on my own to study for a PhD in Computer Science. I have been teaching mathematics at Bakersfield University for 12 years.

My true calling, however, is to be a chef. I started at a young age helping my mother and grandmother. I bought cookbooks, watched cooking shows all day. That's when I developed my passion for making French desserts professionally. In the States, I was now cooking all day: desserts, bread, etc. However, that was not enough, my biggest dream was to study at Le Cordon Bleu.

After I gave birth to triplets in 2014, I decided that I would fulfill my dream and my family and I went to Thailand. And so it was in Bangkok that I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, reaching all three levels for Chef-Sweetener. In 2019, I opened my own catering business in California. I deliver desserts, cakes, and sweets every day. I also teach pastry classes at Bakersfield College. I am currently the only pastry chef in this city and surrounding area.

2. Tell us more about the competition Les Vergers Boiron. Why did you decide to participate, what inspired the dessert you won?

I've always liked Boiron purees and when I saw the Boiron anniversary competition, I was inspired. The conditions were: to come up with a Boiron puree recipe, share it and the most liked desserts on Instagram were chosen as finalists, after the approval of Boiron's pastry chefs.

I decided to make a dessert for the race with Boiron's Mashed Fig Mousse. First, because Boiron's purees recreate exactly the authentic taste. And second, because my nostalgia for figs in Bulgaria was strong. This dessert was a tribute to one of Bulgaria's treasures... I put my heart and soul into it and ended up reaping the fruits of my labour. I was among the winners. Yay! I had to send in a recipe that Boiron's pastry chefs in France would approve. They were delighted and included it in Boiron's 80th anniversary book. I was the only Bulgarian among the winners. I'm proud because I've come a long way towards my dream of being a professional pastry chef and getting this kind of recognition from a global brand like Les Vergers Boiron.

3. Why you choose to work with Les Vergers Boiron pureeswhat do you like about them and how do they inspire you? What is your favourite Boiron puree?

I work with Boiron purees because they are very high quality and rich in flavor. I love Maracuja puree the most. I make everything with it: passion fruit filled chocolates, ganache, macarons, mousse cakes and cheesecake.

4. Since you have an insight into the confectionery industry in the US, could you share with us some trends and where it is going overseas?

In the States, there are still many traditional pastry shops where only muffins, cookies and cakes are sold. In big cities, however, you can find modern patisseries with desserts made with European techniques. There the trends are for mousse cakes or small family Entremet cakes. Also gaining popularity are chocolates decorated by hand or with spray paint of different colours. Many customers are looking for gluten-free desserts. They are easy because almond flour can be used for the marshmallows. Overall, trends in confectionery are moving towards quality and healthy living.

5. What advice or message would you give to pastry chefs and culinary artists in Bulgaria?

My message to Bulgarian pastry chefs is not to give up, to pursue their dream in the culinary arts, to improve, to learn the most modern techniques, to use quality products, to take pastry courses and to love what they do. It's important to use high quality chocolate and butter because they make a big part of the flavor. My journey in confectionery in the US continues. My next dream is to start a Culinary School in California. Wish me luck!