“The world of sweets is for everybody. No matter your taste, you can always find something on the dessert menu that will make you happy.”
Rabii Saber, Executive Pastry Chef at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort, oversees the dessert options for the Resort’s five restaurants, in-room dining, and banquet operations.
Saber was born and raised in Morocco, and recalls helping his mother late into the night creating sweets from honey and almonds for morning holiday festivities. Though it was “a little bit nuts for men to be in the kitchen in Morocco those days,” Saber kept at it, fashioning cakes for siblings and friends before studying the culinary arts and heading off five-star restaurants across Europe and the US.
His path took a pivotal turn in the mid-‘00s when Top Chef Michael Voltaggio offered him a position as head pastry chef at a new restaurant in Los Angeles. His boss at the time, Frederic Monti, a renowned master patissier in his own right, advised Saber to consider his decision. “He told me if I wanted to be a well rounded pastry chef, I should stay in hotels,” he recalls. “He was right. There are so many possibilities to take part in, including restaurant plated desserts, banquets, in room dining and special events. It’s great exposure to so many things.”
Saber keeps a close eye on new techniques, noting that pastry is a “whole other world” within the culinary arts that demands the exactitude of chemistry rather than dashes here and best judgments there. In 2016, Saber was honoured to participate on the American team for the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie competion in Lyon, France – known in the pastry world as the “Pastry Olympics.” The selection process to qualify for this prestigious competition involved more than fifty national rounds and four continental selection events in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. In total, 22 teams competed, and the American team placed fourth.
Like Hawaii, Saber has found Orlando to be a little slice of paradise. “The skies, the trees, the sunsets here are so beautiful, and the perfect backdrop for my photographer wife.” And for himself? Passionate about fishing, Saber likes to go Florida bass fishing whenever he can find the time.
Tell us a little bit about your background in pastry arts.
I was fortunate to do a solid training and apprenticeship in the begging of my career in French pastry. I came to live in the U.S.A., the land of opportunities, a little over 10 years ago. I applied the foundations of French pastry to redefine my style and develop and a new flavor profile. This new flavor profile is what I believe made me successful in my task here. Embracing the culture, opening my mind to new horizons and working hard made everything come together harmoniously.
What inspired you to become a pastry chef?
I discovered my passion for pastry at an early age. I was 15 when I started making cakes and sweets for family members and friends. Growing up in a family that loves food and a mother that is passionate about cooking was a big inspiration for me.
Cooking for guests that came over frequently to our home was a part of my family’s life.
I was always involved in our family in the process of making traditional Moroccan pastries for holidays, parties or even for daily consumption as they are a big part of our daily meals.
As a teenager, I made most of the birthday cakes for friends and family members, and that’s when I started learning about the French pastry. I recall a very well-received cake that I used to make. It was a vanilla sponge filed and finished with creme fraiche. It was very simple and super tasty.
When I finished high school, I was determined that pastry was what I wanted to do. It was hard to convince my peers that going into the culinary field was a good decision for me. At the time, there weren’t many opportunities for this field in Morocco. However, I had huge support from my small family. After that, becoming a chef became my goal.
What was life like in Morocco growing up?
Everywhere I lived, I heard the melting pot expression. My life in Morocco was exactly a reflection of that as well. Morocco is a rich, diverse and multicultural country. Historically, the country went through various influences from indigenous Berber populations passing by the Arabs, Jews and to the recent days with the strong European influence. I grew up in a multilingual family and I feel truly blessed to have these skills. Currently, I am working with my children to follow my steps.
What was the Pastry Olympics like? What were some of the biggest challenges you had preparing or during the competition?
Having the privilege to participate in the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie for me was the most exciting experience of my career. I had the opportunity to experiment with many different techniques and recipes. This experience allowed me to learn so many new skills, helped me to expand my knowledge, and grow in my career.
There are multiple achievements that one accomplishes by doing the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie. Despite the awards, one walks away feeling stronger and more confident.
The biggest challenge, especially for the American Team, is that our team consisted of chefs from all over the country. We had chefs from Nevada, California, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Colorado, New York, Michigan, and Florida travel to Chicago every month to practice for the composition for sixteen months. Coordinating logistics and connecting with the team members and coaches, was the biggest challenge that we faced as a team. It was also hard to pack and ship everything to France that we needed for the competition. We had to do this six weeks in advance.
Geographically, European teams had it easier being close to Lyon. However, finishing in 4th place and being very close to the podium was a good achievement. We also won prizes in different categories: Best Ice Sculpture, Best Chocolate Cake and a brand new category that was added this year. We worked supper clean and utilized the product to its maximum by controlling waste.
This was a big area of focus for us and the organizers.
In the end the U.S.A was the first to win the Best Eco Friendly Team award in the history of the Coup du Monde de la Patisserie.
What are some of your favorite desserts served on site at the Four Seasons?
We serve over 40 plated desserts beside other pastry offerings at Four Seasons Resort Orlando. Each restaurant has at least one of its own signature dessert: Tres Leches in Plancha, Key Lime Pie in PB&G, Stracciatella and Tiramisu in Ravello, Churros, Fuego and Valor in Capa, the fabulous Buttermilk Chocolate Cake in In Room Dining, and the Peanut Butter Pie in the Lobby Bar. The Gelato Selection at Lickety Split is a highlight of our Resort, as well as the new introduction of the to-go Dessert Cups concept.
What are some favorite eats that you had growing up?
Morocco is known for it’s Couscous, Tagines and Kebabs. On the sweet side most of traditional pasties are made of almonds and honey. I grew up enjoying the Moroccan cuisine. My favorite meal was Lamb Kebab with a small traditional pastry and Moroccan mint tea.
What is the most elaborate dessert you have made for an event?
I recall having a group in house that wanted a Wonderland themed dessert. We created a small mushroom centerpiece made of chocolate for each plate beside the actual dessert. It was challenging, however, the guests loved it.
What are some other dessert assignments you take on for the hotel?
Pastry has an important role at Four Seasons Orlando. There are many different aspects beside restaurants that involve pastry. Banquets and special events are a big portion of what we do on daily basis. We create sumptuous buffets for special groups, occasions, and holidays. Our Easter, Christmas and New Year’s Buffets are becoming a local favorite within the short time we have been operating. Lickety Split, our Coffee Shop is another opportunity for me to work in other pastry arenas such as gelato and other boutique style desserts. We are working on an exclusive cake program that hotel guests and locals alike enjoy.
EXPERIENCE A SWEET CELEBRATION OF NATIONAL CHOCOLATE DAY AT FOUR SEASONS RESORT ORLANDO
Award-winning Coupe du Monde chocolate cake, wine parings by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, plus Capa’s fireworks make this dessert party a true finale of the day
August 15, 2017, Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, U.S.A.
Partake in sweet celebration of National Chocolate Day this September 13, 2017 at a one-of-a-kind Dessert Party at Capa restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. Executive Pastry Chef Rabii Saber has prepared a delicious assortment of desserts, and will showcase his award-winning “Curtain Rise” chocolate cake. In addition, the Resort will welcome Master Sommelier George Miliotes for this special event, who will present dessert wines and specialty drinks to accompany the sweet smorgasbord.
Saber is truly a dessert genius, and due to his talents, he was invited to participate in the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie – often referred to as a “Pastry Olympics” – in Lyon, France in January 2017, where Team USA took home 4th place overall. One dessert, a stunning chocolate cake called the “Curtain Rise” took home the highest honour in the chocolate category. The special cake features several layers: a thin, crispy layer of chocolate with pieces of caramelised hazelnut; two layers of chocolate sponge cake; a delicate layer of Caraibe chocolate cremeux; and a layer of coffee bean crème brulee. The entire cake is wrapped with a thin chocolate glaze.
“I consider chocolate art one of my strengths, and I am pleased that the cake won for this portion of the event,” sayes Saber. “I’m excited to unveil it to the local Orlando community for National Chocolate Day.”
In addition to the Curtain Rise cake, guests will experience confections including:
Hazelnut and chocolate kisses
Peanut butter and jelly choux pastry
Chocolate olive oil tartlet
5-spice blueberry cheesecake
Passion fruit baba cake
Matcha and black sesame lollipop
Miliotes, one of only 236 worldwide industry professionals certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, is opening Wine Bar George at Disney Springs. Wine Bar George will be the only Master Sommelier-led wine bar in the Sunshine State. The menu will feature a range of varietals, vintages and prices, and a large selection of wines by the glass.
“I’m thrilled to share my enthusiasm and passion for wine with each and every guest, and look forward to a fun dessert event at Capa,” notes Miliotes, who is sourcing wines not typically offered at Capa for this exclusive event.
Space is limited as this event will be held in one of the private dining rooms at Capa. Tickets are USD 55 per person and must be purchased online. The September 13 event will begin at 8:00 pm and conclude at 10:00 pm.