A former Junior Bake-Off judge and current pastry chef says the food industry has been “done to death”, but still managed a come-back with original creations after facing redundancy from restaurants.

Graham Hornigold, 45, constantly occupied his life with the food industry even from a young age as he grew up in St Albans and studied in Watford.

At his peak, Mr Hornigold dabbled with various kitchens and pioneered the launch menus of several international restaurants as a consultant.

But after becoming redundant, he launched a successful gourmet ‘finger doughnut’ chain Longboys, which started in Boxpark Wembley but is also sold at high-end department stores including Selfridges and Harrods.

He is also the co-founder of Smart Patisserie, a food consultancy company with his "driving force" business partner of six years and pastry chef, Heather Kaniuk.

Becoming a pastry chef

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Heather Kaniuk (left) and Graham Hornigold (right) have been working together for seven years.

The experienced chef believes it took a lot of trial-and-error to master the art behind pastries, as he had to experiment with the science behind food combinations and how to please a person’s palette.

“You have to be artistic with the visualisation of plates, understand the balance and temperance of different ingredients and how they manner together – the flavour profiles that give the experience,” explained Mr Hornigold.

“My philosophy has always been to complete the meal. As a pastry chef you’re there to give the ultimate finish of the meal, so you have to understand the food they had before, then think of ways to cleanse the palette, before bringing back more flavour.

“If the meal is too heavy, bring it back with something lighter, if too rich – then find an equal balance.”

His experience into the food industry first began in Ushers Bakery, St Albans at the age of 14. While his job mainly consisted of stacking bread and cleaning the place, he was fascinated to learn more about the industry.

The bakery then paid for his first set of knives, which he used as he attended Cassio College, Watford and later Verulam Boys.

Having to juggle with studying at college and working at The Lygon Arms kitchen in Worcestershire, Mr Hornigold relied on his brother Simon to drive him to his work every Saturday night and return him to St Albans in time for college on Monday mornings.

He said: “If he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have been be able to go on to what I did.”

Unfortunately, both his brother Simon and other brother Ian died in a car crash in 2006 at the A414.

In their memory, Mr Hornigold continues to take part in charity fundraisers and marathons, with the help of Ms Kaniuk who he has worked alongside with at several restaurants.

Standing out in the industry

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The Raspberry Rose Lychee Longboy.

The pastry chef has a lot of accomplishments to his name. He worked at Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, and The Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park Corner.

He was named the 2007 UK Pastry Chef of the Year and worked as a consultant in the Hakkasan Group until 2017 which involved working worldwide with several restaurants to perfect the pastry menu.

During which he served as a judge for the CBBC Junior Bake-Off.

In talking about his success, he said: “If you’re going to venture into the hospitality industry, you have to understand it’s not an easy ride – there’s no quick fix to be a chef.

“It’s not necessarily like it was where you get screamed and shouted at like you did back in the day, or like on TV, because that is just good TV.

“In terms of what is expected now, it is value for money but omit to a very high level.

“Not to say fine dining is dead, but it has to be very new and playful without becoming too chemical or scientific.

“Everything’s been done to death, and you get a lot of food concepts that are the same.”

During his time as a consultant, he said he was “flying on top of the world”, which would often be quite literal as he travelled to the various restaurants under the Hakkasan group.

But when he was made redundant at 43, he launched his Smart Patisserie consultancy with Ms Kaniuk and looked how to get himself out of a rut.

What makes a doughnut, a doughnut?

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Some of the Longboys flavours available.

Longboys is a unique creation. The long finger shaped doughnuts may resemble the shape of an éclair, but they have the feel and taste of a prestige doughnut.

The idea began after his daughter gave him a £5 dougnut, which he felt was closer to a bread bun with a mars bar than a doughnut.

To him, this was the next career step out of redundancy, to build a doughnut empire with Ms Kaniuk.

Flavours include Mr Hornigold’s favourite, apple crumble, as well as a range of others like raspberry and cream, sticky toffee caramel, triple chocolate and even vegan options like the coconut chocolate.

Mr Hornigold explained: “Everything we make is in house and we try to balance everything.

“The brioche bun we use gives it that holding feeling without it being too doughy, essentially the bun is a vehicle for what is inside the doughnut.

“So, the dough itself carries less of the taste, with the flavour combinations inside doing the job.

“It gives quality to what you are buying, the way we position garnish means every mouthful is slightly different. Then the balance we give to sugar, acidity and salt means in an ideal scenario you are salivating and refreshing your palette at the same time while eating the doughnut itself.”

Longboys only launched in 2019, with Harrods and Selfridges selling their doughnuts within two months of launch.

Now, the chef is looking to expand even further and even mentioned he would be willing to explore test-launching a store in St Albans or Hertfordshire, if the market is there for it.