Page 46 - Pastry & Baking Magazine

Chef In Focus
Pastry & Baking North America
Gianduja Semifreddo
Today, The Ahwahnee is a major attraction to visitors
to Yosemite as they explore this unique relationship of
architecture and nature. And, after a day of exploring one
of the truly great national parks, The Ahwahnee guests can
count on an even better culinary finale courtesy of the resort’s
executive pastry chef Paul John R. Padua.
Chef Padua has received multiple prestigious awards
and medals in the culinary trade for his unique pastry and
baking creations, and began his Yosemite Valley career in
Prior to joining The Ahwahnee, chef Padua worked at
and/or opened numerous, world-famous resorts, hotels and
casinos in the United States, Asia and the Pacific region.  Some
of these include Caesars Palace and the Luxor in Las Vegas;
Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu; The Sherwood Hotel of Guam
and Taipei, Taiwan; and many establishments throughout
the Pacific Rim, including The Westin Gu, Guam Hyatt, The
Guam Hilton Int’l., Pacific Star Hotel, Onward Agana Beach
Hotel, Palace Hotel Guam and Tokyo, Leo Palace Resort
Guam, and the Aqua Resort Saipan.
Pastry & Baking North America: The Ahwahnee is such
a beautiful property, what is it like working here? Are
you guys open all winter? It must get really cold!
It’s a beautiful place and I feel lucky to work here. Not just the
Park, but the property itself as it’s gorgeous and historic. We’re
open all year round, so one of the other benefits is that I get
to enjoy the changing of the seasons. In the morning when I
wake up, it’s so serene and quiet, which is a nice way to start
each day. To get to experience the views and ambiance of the
property is a pleasure and an honor. It was a big change for
me since I’ve previously worked in the desert, by the ocean in
Guam and Hawaii and now I’m in the mountains.
Walk us through a normal day?
I typically arrive between 9-10am, check out the banquets,
mise en place, check to ensure that everything is set up for
the day. Then I’ll check emails, answering catering questions
from internal team as well as guests. I plan for the next event
and will place orders for ingredients/supplies. During the
week we work on the Sunday brunch menu as we have 16-20
dishes that need to be prepped and produced. I wrap up
my day around 7-8pm after doing the rounds, checking the
refrigerator and checking inventory for the next couple of
As a destination hotel for travelers from all over the
world, what particular challenges do you face in your
approach to the pastry department?
Sometimes it has to do with particular guests’ dietary
restrictions or preferences, such as those with celiacs disease,
who are diabetic or vegetarian. I always say yes as we want our
guests to be happy. Other challenges can arise, such as when
we’re really busy and someone calls in sick, but luckily that
seldom happens.
You’ve opened many hotels all over the world, what
makes The Ahwahnee unique?
We have a lot of returning guests for many years and their
expectations are always the same because it holds such
memories for them. They want the experience to be exactly
how they remember it the first time and they are not always
open to the culinary trends and changes that we incorporate.
They like the more traditional desserts, such as Boysenberry
Pie or the Strawberry Shortcake, so I take the classics and will
introduce a twist to the new recipe to encourage the guest
to try different things. Over the years we’ve also moved to
mostly organic ingredients and we source as locally as possible
for the entire menu.
Are you formally trained as a pastry chef or did you go
the apprenticeship route?
I did a lot of on the job training with pastry chefs in Asia, who
were very successful, such as Gerard DuBois (La Rose Noire).
I did cross-training at different Hilton properties throughout
my career. I’ve always loved pie books and pastry books, so I’d
buy those for pleasure reading. I also took a few courses at a
community college in Guam, such as hotel & tourism, food &
beverage operations, hospitality purchasing, food & beverage
cost control, and others. I also spent a year in airline catering
but I got bored so I returned to the hotel world and took an
Assistant Pastry Chef job, which was a step down for me, but
it got me back into hotels.
How many on your staff and how many outlets do you
and your team support?
We have 10 people in the pastry and bakery department
and two externs, one from France and one from a culinary
school. We provide pastry for all of the on-site banquets/
events/weddings, The Ahwahnee Dining Room, the Bar, Room
Service as well as support one of our other Park properties,
Yosemite Lodge at the Falls for
their special events.