How did you get into patisserie? "As a child I liked to bake cakes with my mum. We would make marmorgugelhupf, or marble bundt cake, and sachertorte, a dense chocolate cake with apricot jam. All Austrian women know how to make sachertorte. In the last few years, young people have become very interested in learning to make traditional cakes, and to decorate cakes, probably because they want to know what they are eating.
"At 15 years old, I [started] a three-year pastry apprenticeship, then worked at a coffee house and at Badrutt's Palace, in St Moritz, the famous ski hotel in Switzerland. It has a great pastry department. I loved working there. I went back home to do an executive pastry chef course, then to southern England to work at a five-star hotel. I started working at Café Central in Vienna three years ago."
What do you like about pastries? "I love sugar and like to make cakes for my friends and myself. I eat a lot of them. I was named Vienna cake master of the year in 2013 and 2014, but came second this year. Each contestant had to make a showpiece and a cake. I love making showpieces, but [at the Mandarin Oriental, where Warmuth recently took part in a Viennese patisserie promotion] they are so much better. I can learn here and take it back to Vienna. Pastry is a passion for me. When I go to bed and have ideas, I write them down and try them out the next day. At Café Central, each year, we serve 480,000 guests with 300,000 pieces of cake and pastries, 50,000 of which are apfelstrudel. Fifty-five per cent of our total business comes from the coffee house, which seats 180 guests; the rest is banqueting. We supply pastries to coffee houses [that do not] have pastry teams."
What cakes are the most popular at Café Central? "The more traditional ones, like apfelstrudel and sachertorte, are most in demand. We try to offer contemporary styles but they aren't easy to sell.
"In Austria, people have a very traditional mindset. If you give them new things, it's almost like a fight. The Viennese are very particular - they prefer traditional cakes. They think, 'I like this cake so I will order it.' They are worried that if they try something new they may not like it. They are not really open-minded - much like my parents, they prefer sachertorte."
Do you get tired of making traditional cakes? "Sometimes. But if I make a lot of them, I not only get better but it helps me build self-confidence."
Do you make cakes for your family? "For special events, like when my aunt got married. I made her wedding cake. I get a special feeling when I make a cake for someone I like, and I make it much better. My mum makes the birthday cakes."
What's your favourite thing to make? "I like making chocolate pieces and showpieces. You need good chocolate, the perfect temperature, and enough space to work with it. There are so many cakes I like to make. I stay after work to try new things. I like YouTube because there are so many videos of chocolate decorations I want to try."
Do you participate in many competitions? "As an apprentice I competed a lot. Now I participate once or twice a year in local competitions. I like the stress and people watching what I'm doing. It motivates me."
How many people work in your pastry team? "We have 17 or 18 people in the winter and 13 to 15 in the summer, nine of whom are apprentices. I've learned a lot so I can start to teach others."
What do you do when you're not cooking? "Sports like skiing and swimming. There are many nice swimming areas on the River Danube. I also like mountain biking."
Johannes Warmuth was in Hong Kong for a promotion at the Mandarin Oriental.