Peter Webber – a devil in the kitchen

He has a wealth of experience in the pastry business. Years spent at the Savoy in London, Hyatt Regency in Dubai and the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, along with the numerous awards won make him a formidable pastry chef. 

Sit down and speak with him, and you’ll discover an exuberant character with tales of cakes, each with their own adventurous story – adventures through his many years of experience. You’ll learn that every creation is an individual sculpture. We discovered all this first hand when we sat down for coffee with Peter Webber.

 

What gave you the idea for the name “Les Diables”?
It’s actually the opposite name of my first restaurant in Phuket, which was Les Anges at the Royal Phuket Marina.

When setting up the restaurant here at boat Lagoon, we had to come up with a name, so to be cheeky we thought Les Ange, Les Diables – The Angels, The Devils…we looked to see if the name was available and it was  – So that’s how we arrived at Les Diables.

I am fascinated by cherubs and angels, which is why my first restaurant was called Les Anges. Some people said we should call it “The Angel” bakery, but it sounds tacky in English, so we used French instead. Same thing with Les Diables.

 

When you’re not busy creating masterpieces at work, where are you and what are you doing?
I love to dance, but not so much these days as my hip operation shot my nerves, also cycling as well, which is always nice in Phuket. I swim, read books, watch tv and a good film! I don’t like action too much but prefer a good English period drama.

 

 

 

When you go swimming, where do you swim?
In a pool. I don’t like swimming in the sea too much, it scares me a little, like getting bitten by a shark or something. I do love beaches for walking, but I prefer to lie by a pool. It’s more comfortable. And the bar is nearer.

 

What is your favourite local dish and where did you find it?
Moo Hong. Well, there’s two. Since I’ve been living in Phuket I’ve come across two dishes that I like. One is Moo Hong which is a slow-cooked pork belly with spices and herbs, so it’s very tender and delicious. The best one I’ve had is at Raya Restaurant in Phuket Town. I thought it was the best! There’s also a local vegetable called Pak Miang. It’s a green leafy vegetable which you cook in coconut milk or stir-fried with eggs. 

My favourite Thai dish is Mango Sticky Rice. The combination of coconut cream and the mango and sticky rice! I thought it was better than sex the first time I ate it when I arrived in Thailand, The most wonderful combination of ingredients – but I like all Thai dishes if I’m honest, just hate the chilli!

 

What is your all-time favourite pastry creation, and what were the circumstances that led up to it?
There are so many creations that I’ve made throughout my career that are worth mentioning, but there is one that comes to the front of my mind. When I was working at The Savoy Hotel in London, there was a musical benefit happening, which involved a competition for us to make a musical instrument showpiece from sugar. 

I made a violin from pastillage. It’s like a fondant that you roll and it goes hard. I did the sheet music after listening to The Four Seasons for the first time, which is rather wonderful. It wasn’t a massively big piece, but it was beautiful. It was simple and beautiful. The violin was white, with the sheet music and it sat on a pale green base.

We entered it into the competition and everything was perfect about it. But we found out at the competition that it was too big. My executive chef forgot to tell me the dimensions it needed to be. It was meant to be fifteen inches, but mine was twenty inches. In the end, though, they were so impressed and happy with it that they decided to give me a special prize – a weekend at the Mayfair Hotel in London. 

 

What was the most pleasant surprise you had while setting up shop here?
I think it would be working in such a nice location. Working in paradise!

When you’re looking for people to work with you in the kitchen, what qualities are you looking for?
People that work hard and have a passion for what they’re doing. I want them to be diligent, hard-working, have good timekeeping and enthusiasm for what they do. I think if you have enthusiasm for what you do then time goes faster and you enjoy it. 

 

What is the direction you will be taking the restaurant over the next few years?
We’re trying to slowly ease away from the restaurant side of things. In future, I want to concentrate more on wholesale and opening locations that serve the public. Ideally, we’ll have one central bakery feeding the front-facing patisseries. When I opened Les Ange originally in RPM, it was a little too early to be in Phuket. It was difficult to find some ingredients, so it made running a high-end patisserie difficult. 

 

Is there anything our readers can expect to see from you in the coming years?
If they know me, there are many surprises to come! But on a serious note, we are moving more towards a tea room concept, and also that we will focus on our Central locations at Central Festival and Central Patong, and will be opening up at Porto De Phuket soon. 

 

Bonus story

When I was in Bangkok, I used to dance for the Ministry of Sound. I used to enjoy it. I asked if I could dance on their podiums, cause they never let the public onto the podium to dance. They said no because of insurance, so I asked them if they would let me if I signed an indemnity form, and they did! They watched me dancing that entire night.

In the end, they asked me to dance for them. I danced for all their guest DJs and had three backing dancers. I did for a year until the Thai law changed and clubs had to close at 12 or 2 am.

If I were to do it all over again, I’d become a dancer. It’s a wonderful sense of freedom you get doing it.

Gareth Zebron
Gareth Zebron

Editor in Chief

Gareth is the Editor in Chief at Real Life Phuket. He works with writers and contributors, gathering articles and editorials to compile the magazine, and manages Real Life’s online presence. Gareth has worked in events, music, magazine publications, and digital marketing. A good day for him consists of a solid adventure on his bike or a good coffee with good people.

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