Interview with Leman Decorations Chef Stijn Vandevelde
Tuesday 17 October 2023
Friday 20th of October is International Chef day.
We want to introduce you to our chef Stijn Vandevelde, the heart and soul to our creations that inspire our customers around the world.
Can you tell us more about your background and how you became interested in chocolate and confectionery?
I have been interested in food since I was little. I started in Ter Groene Poort, located in Bruges, to become a chef. But through the first two years of orientation, I discovered my love for bread, pastry and chocolate. From an early age I also started helping in the bakery in our village to learn even more. During my training, I also had the opportunity to intern at Patisserie Noppe, Puratos and Huize van Wely in the Netherlands.
After the apprenticeship, they gave me the opportunity for a permanent contract at Huize van Wely, a top pastry chef. Still, I wanted to do a 7th year of specialization in Ter Groene Poort as a bakery technician.
After completing my studies, I started as a pastry chef at the Delecta bakery in Waregem. I was in a team of about eight people where I could do the patisserie and the bakery. There, I learned to work independently and in a team. It was also there that I found my passion in decoration.
After five years, I said goodbye to night work and started as chocolatier at Leman. I then had the opportunity to grow further within Leman from assistant to production manager in combination with chief demonstrator. I have provided workshops within Leman for bakers, ice cream makers and chocolatiers for over ten years.
What inspired you to join Leman Decorations as a consulting chef?
I gradually grew into that and by watching demonstrations myself. When I was still at school in Bruges, we often went to fairs. I looked up to the chefs who provided the demonstrations. I have learned a lot about how to deal with customers and their wishes.
What is the most challenging or unique pastry you have created or collaborated on?
Every year, it is a challenge for me to contribute to the catalogue and design new, beautiful, feasible creations. I mainly look at how we can apply our decoration to baked goods to inspire our customers. This process is something I have also grown a lot in, to let those creations speak to the imagination.
Initially, this was still with 'dummies' or fake cakes, which consisted entirely of butter. Then, we treated it with an airbrush.
Gradually, we became more professional to let those creations appeal to the imagination. Now, we make real cakes to show our decoration in the most realistic setting.
Another challenge for me is to create a personal range for each customer that matches their style.
I once had to make a super large wedding cake for a colleague, but with macarons. That was an enjoyable challenge.
How do you stay informed of the latest trends and innovations
I stay informed by searching a lot online and in food magazines. I follow a lot of chefs to see what they are doing. Also, I keep up with general trends such as clothing, which colours and which prints are popular, which can also have a creative impact on patisserie.
I also learned much from colleagues such as Peter Remmelzwaal & Willem Verlooy. The demonstrations they give are of a very high level. I always find it interesting to learn new techniques. The most important thing is that I continue to maintain my style.
Can you provide some insight into designing new demonstrations for customers?
We try to present our new products at a fair first. We not only present them but also use them in a live demo. It’s important that our audience see what they can do with the decoration.
After a fair, I take that experience with me to my demos at Leman Decorations.
When the customer arrives, I first take a look at what their range consists of and what their style is. We then discuss their wishes and problems together with the customer. For us, it is crucial when customers go home that they know how to use the decoration, but also with a lot of inspiration and tips. Every demo has a personal touch.
What are some critical factors contributing to the quality of Leman Decoration products?
What sets us apart from other manufacturers is our flexibility. We strive for an amazon.com - order today and delivery tomorrow. That is only sometimes possible, but we try to be as flexible as possible towards the customer. Our speed, efficiency and agility is made possible by our vertically integrated production system, enabling us to create and tailor decorations to our customers’ specifications.
We have a motivated team that thinks like a customer and that we all finish our products the way we want as customers. We offer more than 6,000 different products, and even during the holidays, we can stay on top of things for our customers.
What do you enjoy most about working with Leman Decoration and contributing to the company's success?
I can contribute ideas to new creations. The job also provides a lot of variety, providing more challenges.
I also like the collaboration between all departments within the company. Each department has its contribution to the creative process, which ensures a good flow of ideas.