Eric Lanlard: ‘People think a cake is like a stew: that you can add this or that’

My earliest food memory... Making fairy cakes or chocolate Rice Krispie cakes when I was about six or seven. My mum was a very good cook, as were most of my family, and I learnt a lot from them at a very early age.

My favourite cookbook... Paris Patisseries by Pierre Hermé (Flammarion, £24.95). Hermé was an inspiration for me when I was younger, and the book is a history of all the individual shops with recipes from them. It [conveys] the whole glamour of patisseries, which is what really attracted me to patisseries in the first place: my first thought when I was starting out was, "What's my shop going to look like?"

The kitchen gadget I can't live without... My coffee grinder. I use it for grinding spices and chocolate as well. It's great for making a really smooth ganache: you can grind the chocolate almost to a powder then add it to the hot cream without having to pre-melt it. That way, you won't burn the chocolate or kill the flavours by heating it too much.

My culinary tip... When it comes to baking, make sure you follow the recipe exactly. A lot of people go wrong because they think making a cake is like making a stew: you can add a bit of this or a bit of that or swap one ingredient with another. But really it's like chemistry.

My favourite food shop...The food hall in Le Bon Marché [department store] in Paris. It's a proper food emporium, like they used to have in the old days, and it has everything you need under one roof. The fresh vegetables are particularly amazing. It's rare to find such beautiful vegetables over here: you often wonder how long they've been sitting in the box.

My top table... Le Gavroche, for the food, service and nostalgia, as that's where I started my career. In general, though, because I was a bit spoilt in my youth and tried all the top restaurants, these days I'm much happier to go to a gastropub where there's not the stress of what to wear or booking six months in advance: The Ship in Wandsworth is brilliant. Saying that, I went to the new Heston Blumenthal, Dinner, the other day and I thought it was fantastic. I wasn't that impressed with The Fat Duck, probably because I had read so much about it that there was no sense of surprise. But I thought Dinner was great: no gimmicks or nitrogen, just fantastic food and a lovely atmosphere, with a beautiful view [of Hyde Park].

My dream dining companion... Catherine Deneuve, because she's the classic French icon, and I'm sure she's a bon viveur and loves her food. Also, Elton John, as he's so unpredictable: you always get drama with him.

My guilty pleasure... Those Heinz baked beans with pork sausages in them. Most of the time, I won't even heat them up, I'll just eat them straight from the tin.

The strangest thing I've eaten... Camel-foot soup. It was in Australia in an Asian restaurant, and it was supposed to be part of their gastronomic menu. I thought the foot would be a bit like a pig's trotter, but it was absolutely revolting.

Pet hates... Over-complicated food. I remember going to Joël Robuchon's restaurant in Las Vegas, where one dish was caviar served five ways, and thinking, "I'd rather just have a pile of caviar with blinis and sour cream."

My tipple of choice... It has to be vintage champagne; regular champagne gives me gas. I love Krug or Ruinart, and whether it's been a good or a bad day, you can find an excuse for a glass.

Eric Lanlard is a master pâtissier and owner of Cake Boy, a patisserie, cake lounge and cookery school in Battersea, south London ( cake-boy.co.uk). 'Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard' will air on Channel 4 from tomorrow at 2.45pm. For recipes, hints and baking tips, head to bakingmad.com

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