Chef Christophe Rull pushes the boundaries of flavor and art, interview


Fans of Netflix’s Bake Squad marveled as Chef Christophe Rull transformed sugar, butter and flour into visually stunning food art. Many viewers longed to stand beside Christina Tosi and taste those desserts, too. Now, Rull is taking his talents to World Chocolate Masters.

Recently Chef Christophe Rull spoke to FoodSided about his Bake Squad experience, the connection of food and art, and his participation in World Chocolate Masters. While he might have been labeled a “pastry illusionist” on Bake Squad, Rull’s creativity is not just a magic trick.

When asked why he decided to join Bake Squad, Rull had a little luck on his side. He said, “When the casting team called and presented me with the show concept, I was really excited about the opportunity to create something for people. In my opinion, it was not like a normal competition. It was more of an opportunity to showcase our skills individually. It’s a great show that focuses on the love of baking and family. The whole experience was amazing, and I am thrilled to have been a part of it!”

Over the past several years, food television and pastry in particular has showcased the art of food. While chefs have long touted their symphony of flavors and their cacophony of textures, the concept of food art has many people staring in disbelief. From the uber realistic pieces to the most fantastical representations, that sense of wonder and whimsy makes people even more excited.

When asked, Rull had a poignant response. “I feel that food is an art on its own already. As a pastry chef, we can emphasize the art by size -we can go big with a couple pieces of chocolate glued together or get creative and artistic with sugar. If you can get a “wow” from customers/guests/family at first look, chances are, you’ve succeeded in evoking emotion with your creation.”

Reflecting on his experience in the World Chocolate Masters competition, Rull said, “During the World Chocolate Masters U.S. Selections, I was able to create an amazing piece of art with chocolate. We were tasked to create a work of art that represents the world of tomorrow and I played with the idea of what the world would be without our ocean. That is the amazing thing about food and art – you can create new things and reveal important messaging.”

Since the World Chocolate Masters pushes the boundaries of chocolate, it is inspiring to see what these pastry chefs create. Specifically, Rull said “Chocolate desserts have a lot of potential: from ice cream to chocolate bonbons, plated dessert, drinks, candies, hot molten chocolate cake, chocolate showpieces, and more. The list goes on. I think when it comes to chocolate desserts, you can elevate it through storytelling.

Rull, shared this specific example, “I got the opportunity to visit cacao plantations in Nicaragua with team members from Cacao Barry a few years ago. When we came back from the trip, I created a Rugoso Chocolate souffle with exotic sorbet in memory of this trip. During this trip, we created a rice pudding with local, fresh, exotic fruits to thank the farmers from the cacao plantation for welcoming us. The dessert was one of many highlights of this trip and customers always enjoy hearing about the trip.”

While his inspiration comes from many areas, Rull isn’t afraid to think outside of traditional flavor pairings. As seen on Bake Squad, he matched “exotic ganache with a Carolina Reaper” and found that “some heat in a bonbon made for an interesting taste.”

But, that isn’t the only time when he tried creative combinations. Rull said, “I love exotic fruits and spicy food in general, the acidity of the passion fruit and the spiciness match well together. The mango’s sweetness helps to downplay the kick of the spiciness.”

Since food trends influence beyond the shelf. As seen in the World Chocolate Masters, an element of the competition focuses on plant-based desserts. When asked about the plant-based food trend, Hull stated, “Plant-based food has taken the market by storm and consumers are reassessing what they eat and how it impacts the planet. It’s all part of a bigger conversation and the dessert industry is also getting involved.”

While that element seems to be front and center in many food conversations, food is being used to further other cultural topics, included conservation and sustainability. While food waste isn’t often a component of the dessert world, chefs can present topics in a way that gets people thinking.

Rull said, “When it comes to food, chefs are the first promoters of sustainability, not only in ingredient waste but also on the use of plastic. It’s a big challenge and finding better ways to operate daily can have a drastic change overall. To do our part in conserving the planet, we need to reduce the consumption of meat, dairy, fishes on a regular basis.”

Speaking specifically to this food event, Rull shared, “The Cacao Barry World Chocolate Masters selection competitions tasked the chefs to build on this theme of conservation, sustainability, and technology and how our world is affected by these things. I mentioned previously that I focused my artwork on ocean conservation. It’s a cause near and dear to me and I have big plans on how I will be expanding that in the final competition.”

While pastry and baking novices marvel at these confectionery creations, Rull wants the beginners to start at the beginning. Just like a towering showpiece is not built in a day, nor is the knowledge and experience for a pastry chef.

Rull believes, “Basics are important and often novices get ahead of themselves by trying to create beautiful and intricate showpieces right away. I think it’s wonderful to see them inspired, however, they first need to learn the foundations such as where the chocolate is from; how to properly temper chocolate, start with simple decor, bonbons etc.… You must take it one step at a time.”

For those interested in learning more, Rull has partnered with the Sugar Geek Show, an online platform, that explores recipes and offers baking technique videos. But, for Rull one simple word should be novice chefs mantra in the kitchen.

Rull said, “Patience is something that novices lack. I encourage young chefs to take the time to study and understand the medium. There are a lot of books I would recommend, but one that stands out is Chocolate by Ramon Morata. This book is always on my coffee table, and I find myself referring back to it anytime I am looking for answers.”

Since Rull has created some marvelous show pieces and impress desserts, it begs the question. What is the one chocolate dessert that he never tires of eating. “A good chocolate soufflé will always be something that I will enjoy. I think it’s because the chocolate souffle is one of the first items you learn how to make that is challenging. From the consistency of the meringue to the temperature of mixing, every step must be precise and perfect. Being able to perfect it makes me proud.”