Swiss-based Malaysian pastry chef prepares award-winning creations
As a child, Bella Kamaruddin Jeunehomme remembers her grandmother waking her up early during the fasting month to bake all kinds of traditional cookies for Eid.
“Every morning during Ramadan she would wake us up and we ended up staying in the kitchen until late making all kinds of cookies. She also liked to make roti paung, a kind of must-have butter brioche bread, ”Bella shared via email.
“(Because of these experiences) Baking has been my passion since I was seven years old. “
Today, the 26-year-old pastry chef from Kuala Terengganu has carried this passion with her to Switzerland, where she currently lives with her mother and stepfather.
Bella moved there nine years ago after graduating from O-level in Malaysia.
“When I first arrived in Switzerland, it was difficult because I spoke little French and had to learn it to adapt to the country,” recalls Bella.
She then enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship class at Ester, a college in the state of Neuchâtel, and then found an apprenticeship as a trainee chef at a gourmet restaurant.
However, she quit after a month, realizing that baking was her passion.
“I started to wonder if moving to Switzerland was the best option, but I never gave up. While waiting to find a suitable place, I baked birthday cakes for friends and acquaintances because I couldn’t stay home and do nothing.
“My parents have always been there for me and they have never abandoned me. They always told me to have faith, patience and believe in myself, ”she said.
A year later, she obtained an apprenticeship at La Chaux de Fonds in Neuchâtel in a bakery called Au Coeur de France.
After her third month there, she took part in the national Swiss Bakery Trophy competition in 2018, with the support of her boss Gerald Meyer.
“He encouraged me to come up with my own idea – I made a Yule Log called La Bella Buche and we won a silver medal for it,” explained Bella.
His winning streak didn’t end there.
During her second and third years of apprenticeship, she participated in Chocolatissimo, a chocolate sculpture competition also in Neuchâtel where she won two consecutive gold medals, in 2019 and 2020, as well as a special Richemont ( a well-known pastry school) price.
Bella recently completed her three-year apprenticeship, during which she said that she too “fell in love with confectionery”.
Although she did not finish as the best apprentice in the state for her final exam, she was offered to participate in the final competition of young pastry chefs of Romandie and Ticino, because the person who won the prize of best apprentice in his class did not want to participate. inside.
“My boss asked me to take part in the competition. He knew I liked competitions and I also felt that I had a lot to prove. He accompanied me throughout the preparation, with my former teacher Jean Pierre Lecompte.
To her delight, Bella took third place in the competition, held this year, which saw the best intern from each state compete for the title of Swiss intern champion.
“I was very happy and proud to be able to represent the state of Neuchâtel, a state that was once an unknown city for me. But then I realized that I not only represent a state in Switzerland but in my heart, I also represent Malaysia.
“I was a foreigner in Switzerland, but now I’m making my way and making my dream come true,” said Bella, who thanks her employer, family and friends for their support and encouragement.
Being Malaysian, Bella likes to draw on her past for inspiration for recipes.
“I love to infuse Malaysian and Asian flavors into my baking, and people here love them,” said Bella, who uses a lot of coconut milk and pandan extract in her creations.
She takes a lot of her ideas from the internet and just thinks of new combinations.
“Sometimes I’m just curious as to whether two flavors complement each other well without overwhelming the taste.
“Some of my creations come from my grandmother’s recipes, for example her pineapple pie or my grandfather’s favorite desserts and sweets. “
Bella is most proud of her specialty – a milk chocolate gianduja, crushed caramelized peanuts, and a fine chocolate shortbread, all topped with a set of milk chocolate – which she created in honor of her. late grandfather.
“It was my inspiration because he bought crushed peanuts all the time and it was his favorite.”
Bella’s passion for baking and confectionery runs deep.
“It fascinates me because the creations are endless. You can experiment with almost anything – sweet, sour, bitter, spicy … all of it in the right amount and it could turn into something amazing.
“I like the precision of it all and the delicacy of the pastries. I love it when I experience something new and show it to people and they have the biggest smile on their faces. It brings me joy.
Since winning third place in the final competition for young confectioners, Bella has received job offers from all over Switzerland.
But she decided to accept the post of chef apprentice managers in the same pastry shop in Neuchâtel where she did her apprenticeship, starting to work in January.
In the meantime, she hopes to one day return to Malaysia to open her own pastry and confectionery.
“When I do this, I will use the best Swiss chocolates; it will be 100% Swiss shocks with Asian herbal teas, ”shared Bella, who loves to sing and also takes dance lessons to disconnect from work after a long day.