Juan Manuel Herrera: from Berisso, to screens across the country

Three hundred twenty-six thousand people follow him on Instagram. And hundreds of thousands more on television. Juan Manuel Herrera’s classes are a national classic, from north to south and from east to west. As well as his tips for using yeast or oven temperatures. Do you want to make some delicious croissants? Just by googling it, his excellent proposals will appear.

When he is not on any screen, he is an ordinary man, with two twin daughters, who walks Montevideo Avenue, waving to one side or the other, until he reaches the corner of 9, where he has his own place: La Bollería. Everything he teaches, and much more too, can be found there, to be enjoyed at home.

Juan Manuel graduated from the Argentine Institute of Gastronomy, and took courses in French chocolate and pastry at the Ecole Lenôtre in Paris. He worked in Spain and was also a professor of bakery-pastry at Ott College, at the Escuela del Chef and at the Instituto Superior de Hotelería.

At the same time, he was a consultant and trained numerous hotels, restaurants and cafes in his métier.

Many remember him from the Utilísima program “Todo dulce” or saw him in “Chicas express”. On that channel he also co-hosted “Bakery at Home” and “La Pastelería”. In addition, he published two books.

Currently, on the channel El Gourmet you can see it, from Monday to Friday, in “El Pan Nuestro de cada día”. In his childhood, that daily bread was the one made by his father; his vocation only woke up in young adulthood, as he reveals.

– How was the process from Juan Manuel who was in “El Trigal” with his father to this Herrera, first a baker from Utilísima and now from El Gourmet? Did you plan it? Or were the opportunities appearing and you took them?

I started with my dad. I grew up there, in my old man’s bakery. Until I was a teenager I didn’t want to know anything, but then I started studying gastronomy, and that’s when I really started to like bakery and pastry.

I got to Utilísima because I sent a resume. At that time, I sent it thinking how I can start my own path. And then everything else came by itself. I stayed, and first I went out once a month, then once every 15 days… and more and more often. From there to here, everything happened.

“The recipes that my followers make the most are the simple ones, the ones they can make at home”

-How did La Bollería come about? Tell us what your proposal is there.

I’ve liked the place where La Bollería is all my life and I wanted to do what I like the most, which is a mix between French pastry and bakery and ours, Argentinean. This is how my own project was born. I make a bit of sfogliatella, which is an Italian bill, or a variety of pastries, from an Ópera cake to a Chajá, which is Uruguayan. The idea is to always improve and make the products that I like the most.

– What recipes are your viewers and followers making the most?

I think the ones my followers do the most are the simplest; what they can do at home. But precisely, what is good about the bakery is that with very few ingredients you get by and do a lot of things. But from what I see, they do French bread and butter croissants. They are position 1 and 2 in the ranking.

– What is the pastry that Argentines choose the most? Is there a tradition marked towards French or has that changed?

Only now is the bakery being known more here in Argentina. Actually, that’s what they say in Spain. In France they call it viennoiserie. But the most classic that people consume are croissants and chocolate bread. It is what is being done the most. I also really like the puff pastry brioche. It’s very good, it’s classic.

– Let’s talk about Argentine traditions: what do you think are the bakery and pastry products that have Argentine DNA?

With Argentine DNA are the fat croissants and everything that is biscuit: little books, horns, cremonas, fat biscuits. The fat medialuna is a classic, Argentine classic. Also the black pancake, the cornstarch alfajor, the rogel or provincial alfajor, as it is called. That is the DNA. Basically, in bakery, everything that is fat and in pastry, everything that has dulce de leche.

– What do you think of the trend, especially post-pandemic, of sourdough baked goods?

It was a boom in the pandemic, with everyone at home raising their sourdough. I think that much will remain and much will no longer. From my point of view, I see it as a fashion. I don’t see it lasting long. It’s not going to go away, but for daily production, if you want to do multiple things, it’s not something that’s easy to handle.

– The bread basket of a restaurant must have…

The bread basket of a restaurant must have a white bread, a whole wheat bread and a crusty bread or cookie. For me those are the three things that have to be. Afterwards, the varieties depend on each place.

– What projects do you have for the rest of the year, and can you tell us something about your 2023?

This year, keep trying to improve La Bollería. I think I still have a lot to improve to be a little more satisfied. Face-to-face classes I will no longer give for 2022, we will see next year. And I will continue with online classes, and hopefully there will be something new on TV.

– What can not be missing in the refrigerator of Juan Manuel Herrera?

Ham and cheese. I love ham and cheese, so my fridge can’t miss that.

– What do your daughters like the most of everything you cook?

Helena really likes fat croissants, she loves them. And also the little books and the warm horns. She asks us to always warm them up. And Juana really likes sweet things: tiramisu and Opera cake. She is a lover of those two desserts.

Herrera talks about her twins and her face lights up. Like the girls, every time they enjoy dad’s delicacies at home.