Pastry-making doesn’t seem to have too much in common with the craft of watch design. But, as a new patisserie pop-up Nina Métayer created for Jaeger-LeCoultre in New York demonstrates, their relationship is actually beautifully aligned. Part of the Swiss watchmaker’s “Reverso Stories” exhibition, which is now on view now in Flatiron, the temporary café pays homage to Jaeger LeCoutre’s Reverso wristwatch: a design with a rectangular watch face that originally debuted in 1931. Its dimensions were conceived to adhere to the famed golden ratio, which has long thought to be the mathematical key behind organically occurring beauty in nature.
Recently declared the world’s best pastry chef by the International Union of Bakers and Pastry Chefs—and the first woman to receive the honor—Métayer, 35, was inspired by various facets of Jaeger-LeCoultre to create four original delicacies for her ephemeral menu. Her carré au miel de forêt, for instance, takes after Reverso’s rectangular watch face, and displays 360-degree rays of piping around a central, gold leaf-sprinkled circle of pear; meanwhile, the spirale de noisette, made of hazelnut crunch and finished with a vanilla mousse, visually emulates the spiral form often associated with the golden ratio seen in plantlife, shells, and beyond. Then there’s the ruby-red étoile de cassis, which combines geometric shapes meant to evoke what Métayer describes as a “crystallization of water” with the hue and flavoring of red currants. The fruit grows in abundance around the watchmaker’s idyllic headquarters in the mountainous Vallée de Joux locale near the western border of Switzerland.
When it comes to process, the baker emphasizes the narrative aspect as the core element of each of her finished items. Her “first try” at bringing a pastry concept to fruition “makes the story start,” she explains. “If I don’t try anything, I can have many [ideas] in my head, but nothing starts.” From there, Métayer creates a drawing on paper, “so it starts to be real,” she explains, before beginning her attempts to execute the design in edible form. While Métayer describes herself as a “craftsman in pastry,” her product, unlike that of the luxury watchmakers, is able to flourish with the slightest “human” imperfections.
“Sometimes it’s good when it’s not perfect.”
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s “Reverso Stories” is on view in New York through November 22, 2023.
Rachel Summer Small is Family Style’s Culture Editor and a writer and critic based in New York.