Anna Gerasi: the Pastry Chef who invests in evolution.

Pastry, the natural expression of a lively spirit: Anna Gerasi, the Pastry Chef and Master of Art who invests in evolution.

From Brescia, the city where she was born forty-five years ago, to Paris, the city where she landed to win the World Chocolate Master 2022 competition. From the tradition of the family pastry shop to her art studies at the Brera Academy, from her career as an entrepreneur to her family life. We met Anna Gerasi, owner together with her brother Gianpaolo, also a pastry chef, of the historic Pasticceria Piccinelli dal 1862 in Brescia, of which she is now also artistic director and responsible for Research and Development. A Master of Art graduate from the Brera Academy, she has always loved painting and sculpture, two passions that she has been able to transform into skills and that she has combined with great naturalness and success with her family’s pastry tradition.

The pastry world, a family passion that for Anna Gerasi is not about gender-or is it?

I would say a natural passion, first because it was passed on to me and then because it paralleled the growth and evolution of another great passion: art. My parents allowed me to enroll in the academy because they already knew how much I loved it, but in the meantime, I continued to work in the pastry shop: I never chose, it was natural for me. But I am a special case. There is no denying that the pastry world still has a very male tradition, although I would no longer make it solely a gender issue, because things in some aspects have changed or are changing. We often forget that our world, the processes and in general the activities that are carried out within the laboratories presuppose significant physical efforts, so women are clearly disadvantaged, certainly more so in the past. Today, the support of technology also allows us to be part of a facilitated assembly line that places us in the various production processes on the same level as a man, at least physically. In addition, the sensibility is changing, the culture, more and more women are approaching professional pastry, although there are difficulties still: because of the shifts, the sacrifices, the fact that in order to make a career and get noticed, it is necessary to travel, and still this, in terms of mentality, is badly reconciled with the role of women. As I was saying, I know that I am a special case as a business owner, and that is why, for example, I was able to participate in the competition in Paris in 2022: no one would have nominated me otherwise, and not for lack of qualifications, rather out of habit, the proof being that I was the only woman competing. The competition environment remains unfortunately terribly masculine compared to others that animate our world.

The Pluses of a Woman’s Bakery

Aesthetics, order, organization, precision, attention to detail, experimentation. We are spirits endowed with varied and transversal sensibilities, and in my case, there is no doubt that the aesthetic and artistic side prevails, but I believe that in general women can bring a lot to contemporary pastry making. Of course, I do not take anything away from my colleagues, I find many of them splendid, especially when we talk about haute patisserie, but in the world of laboratories, of bakeries, certainly more informal environments, not to say spartan, I am sure that the precision, order, and organization typical of us women can be a great advantage. My workshop is proof of that, and I am lucky in that, too, because I have a partner like my brother who believes very much in the value of the change that women can bring to our company, and in fact we have many of them, but I must say that we also have many men: for us it is not so much a question of gender as being able to include and find everyone their own special place that can give value to the evolutionary process of the company.

Innovation and technology, also a combo declined in the feminine

If we believe in change we also believe in innovation, in chemistry, which is increasingly present in the world of confectionery, in science. Technology is a fundamental contribution to all this since to its contribution we can optimize production times. Let me give an example: the first blast chillers in the 1990s were the innovation that most in our field allowed great time savings and new approaches of organization and vision of work. In our case, we invested the time gained precisely in the field of research and development, a branch in which we believe very much. But as an artistic director, I do not deny that even for the display side everything has to be taken care of down to the smallest detail, and technological innovation as well as the design of new furniture and display cases that characterize the contemporary offerings make everything much more optimizing. From the preservation of the products, their organoleptic and aesthetic qualities, to the enhancement of their display, I would say that any pastry shop that seriously looks to the future today must necessarily invest in the technological field.

The bakery of the future

I think the very word change sums up fully what my company and I see when we talk about the future. Confectionery and its ingredients have changed, just as technology has changed, precisely, but the sphere of consumers and our customers has also changed. Accepting change, taking notice of it, knowing how to make it a value and a plus is the path we have taken. Our investments look precisely at novelty, starting with the different nutritional needs that involve increasingly large segments of the population, a large part of which are children. And yes, pastry will never be plant-based – who can take away the magic of certain ingredients and preparations? – but at the same time I believe it is my job not to take away the magic of dessert and pastry creations from a child, as well as from any other person with nutritional needs for which tradition is not adequate. In our case, we can experiment, study, and open the door to new solutions and alternatives that are the result of a great deal of research and development work thanks to a young and passionate team, staff that is rare and somewhat countercultural nowadays. This, too, is the future of confectionery, and it is a value we love to pass on.