By Rebecca Feigelsohn
Shane Harper, the young, energetic, and creative pastry chef at Mark McEwan’s ONE restaurant is not only talented, but he is completely devoted to pastry. Harper lives, breathes, and dreams of pastry, spending hours perfecting recipes, researching new techniques, and brainstorming innovative ideas to test out at the bustling Yorkville hotspot. Harper asserts that “inspiration comes to him anywhere, at any time,” and he often travels with a notebook to jot down any ideas he has about pastry texture, flavour or concept. After studying Pastry Arts at George Brown in 2002, Harper went on to work as a pastry chef at Nota Bene and Langdon Hall before settling in at ONE, and more recently, Fabbrica.
Harper’s passion for pastry extends far beyond his hours in the kitchen taste testing and experimenting with his staff. In fact, he returns home every evening to spend his night nose-deep in science books, in order to perfect his craft and technique, which enables him to design his desserts based on the chemistry and physics behind it. Harper feels there is a lack of theory being taught in downtown Toronto, and has reverted to teaching himself through studying books like “The Modernist Cuisine,” and Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.” He is also inspired by the work of Michael Laiskonis, the former pastry chef Le Bernardin, in New York City, with whom he had the privilege of working alongside, and uses the theoretical knowledge he has gained to create unique and thought-provoking desserts.
Harper’s ultimate goal is to engage diners in his desserts and strives to create something that makes his guests feel. “I believe that eating is a multi-sensory experience, you shouldn’t just eat for sustenance, you should eat for flavour, for the experience,” says the chef. Harper believes that pastry chefs conventionally deal with nostalgia, and he tries to evoke a special memory for his customers. He is currently interested in re-fashioning freezies; a childhood treat that he has very fond memories of, from growing up in Oshawa, Ontario. Harper plans on adding a sophisticated twist to this juvenile treat by using adult flavours like Mojito and Negroni, in order to take something classic and somewhat banal to the next level.
This up-and-coming pastry chef is nothing less than ambitious; he is constantly pushing the boundaries and striving to ‘wow’ in all of his endeavours. He shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, and has big dreams for the future. Short term, Harper plans to do some travelling to gastronomic hotspots such as France, Australia and Chicago, to become inspired by the chefs and the culture. Down the line, he aspires to open a dessert bar in downtown Toronto that offers those with a sweet tooth a place where they can come for adventurous treats after a savoury meal.
Rebecca Feigelsohn is a Toronto based editorial intern for Good Food Revolution. She recently completed her BA in English at McGill University and loves all things sweet. Follow her as she profiles Toronto pastry chefs @GoodFoodRevInt