Meet the Team: Pastry Chef Supervisor, Clarence Fortune
We take pride in the family-like feel of our diverse staff. Our “farm charm” philosophy starts with our amazing team of professionals, who represent different perspectives and display an amazing work ethic to delight our customers with artistic flair and superior service.
This month, we feature 24-year-old pastry chef supervisor Clarence Fortune, who leads his team with passion in making sure our guests are not only indulging in some of the finest desserts in the area, but also striving for that “wow factor” presentation aspect that defines what Normandy Farm is all about.
We asked Clarence about his role within the Normandy Farm family.
How long have you been employed at Normandy Farm?
I’ve been here fast approaching three years. I began honing my skills early on while still in high school at the Eastern Center for Art and Technology in Willow Grove, PA. Wanting to continue in this growing field, I enrolled at Johnson & Wales University and had the opportunity to intern at the Polynesian Resort in Walt Disney World, and also took advantage of an educational stint in Europe at the Apicius School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy. Upon graduation, I pursued a position here at Normandy Farm.
Why did you decide to pursue being a pastry chef?
I was initially inspired by my dad. He was always in the kitchen creating something. I stuck with pastry and baking because I feel that it's more of a science. Creative precision is important with ingredients, processes and artistry, and I gravitate toward that.
It is such an exact science. Is it ever fun?
Absolutely! I enjoy sculpting sugar fondant and chocolate.
What is sculpting?
You may have seen them on banquet tables. They are the showpiece/centerpiece of the display of food. Sculpting and airbrushing them to create highlights is a creative challenge I enjoy. I once did an amazing ocean scene while in school that I was particularly proud of. I do have the opportunity to help construct mini-sculptures with the desserts here at Normandy. They’re quite amazing and beautiful, not to mention decadent.
Have you ever experienced a complete failure in baking?
Of course. It's how you learn and grow. I typically don’t mess up too much, but once in school I had an entire wedding cake topple and fall on the ground. It was very warm in the room and the fondant didn’t hold up. Plop!
What is it about working at Normandy Farm that you enjoy?
The team is outstanding. We all get along. The whole group is like family. All professional, knowledgeable and willing to go the extra mile if needed. It's set the tone for me early on in my career.
What would you consider your biggest challenge working at Normandy Farm?
Making sure the guest is satisfied. Obviously, we know we can’t please everyone all the time, but we make it a priority to find out how to be consistent and how to improve if we need to. We get feedback and reviews from the guests through the sales team, and we use those as a barometer to make sure we’re all on the same page.
Are there any words of advice you would have to inspire young people entering the field?
Well, considering the fact that I’m still a young person (laughing), I’d reach out to those in high school. There are a growing number of technical and culinary schools that make it easier to get true practice in and around the kitchen nowadays. Take advantage of that. Don’t give up. Practice makes perfect. Be willing to learn and to be professional.
Where do you see yourself heading in the future?
Because I'm so young and still learning, I am staying focused on that right now. Normandy Farm is a great place to gain experience with a top-notch organization. I enjoy the business aspect of it, dealing with different people and personalities and managing and supervising professionals. I’d love to eventually become a sous, then executive pastry chef eventually, but I’m enjoying my focus currently.
Thanks, Clarence! We can't wait to see what the coming year has in store for you here at Normandy Farm.
Located just 25 minutes from Center City Philadelphia and situated in the heart of Blue Bell, Pa., Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center is more than a meticulously restored American landmark—it's a fully wired, high-tech hospitality venue. Relax on our grand terrace, sip a cocktail in America's oldest silo, play a challenging game of golf on our championship course, plan an event with us or dine on our delectable farm-to-table cuisine. It all adds up to One Historic Experience.