Sunday, April 14, 2024

MONDAY MAN: Chef with a taste for success

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Damien Mason is a chef by profession, but he loves to bake.

He makes a “mean” cheesecake that “would sell real good”, his friends used to tell him. Hence Mason partnered with pastry chef and friend Julian Broome to start Do It Sweet Cakes in 2005. He does cakes, handmade chocolates, parfaits and other confections.

Though Mason still maintains his job at a restaurant at Sandy Lane Hotel, he has over the years developed his pastry skills. His aim is to become known nationwide for his decadent fine treats.

He said orders had slowed down quite a bit but the fact that the business provided a good product meant they had still been able to maintain customers. Instead of ordering a cake for birthdays, Christmas and Easter, clients might just get a cake once a year for that one major occasion.

Mason said his mother used to cater for children’s parties and he would just help her out and learnt his kitchen skills from there.

Good with hands

“It never really clicked that I wanted to be a chef; I was just really good with my hands and I liked being in the kitchen,” he said. “It just happens that my uncle had a restaurant and I went in and he asked what he wanted to do. I told him I just wanted to work and he said, ‘Well, you will do everything’.” 

There he worked in the bar, as a waiter, cleaned up in the kitchen, whatever. Then one day the chef did not come to work and that was his big break.

Mason went to the Barbados Community College’s Hospitality Institute to get the theoretical bit of things “down pat”. He also got lots of on-the-job experience.

However, he attributes his creativity and ability with pastries to the hands-on experience he gained while working with Carson Flindt.

Camera and notebook

Mason recalled that fresh out of culinary school he wanted to apply for a job but did not know how to make crème brulee, so he went to Flindt Patisserie and asked to be taught. He went equipped with his camera and notebook.

“I went up to chef Flindt and asked if he could show how it was done. He admired that I came to ask and told me he was looking for an apprentice.”

Mason got the opportunity to work with Flindt who he considers to be the “man” when it comes to confections.

“That is what made me what I am today. He is very creative and that is where I kind of get that from.”

Now that his work is vastly improved from the days when he started out, Mason said when he did his first cake it looked horrible, but after a while, with practice and determination, he got it right.

He also asked many friends who were pastry chefs to show him different things, adding: “I was not ashamed to ask.”

He admitted to some trepidation when he first embarked on the business, but that soon passed.

“Follow your heart,” was his advice to young people starting out. “Do not be afraid to go with your feeling even if you are thinking, well, no one does this. Learn

as much as you can. Knowledge is the most important thing.”

He said he always tried to get the honest opinions of friends about his products.

Mason also credits the success of his business to his friend and business partner who was on the Barbados culinary team that participated in the Taste Of The Caribbean competition.

Good teachers, creativity and a whole lot of imagination were as important as cake pans, piping bags and ovens, he said.

“I just love to see when someone bites into one of my creations and close their eyes and exclaim.

“You can actually tell without somebody saying anything, you can know how good a cake tastes. Don’t feel it is only women but you get men the same way,” he said excitedly

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