Page 48 - Pastry & Baking Magazine

Chef In Focus
46
Pastry & Baking North America
What are your favorite kitchen
gadgets?
I love the Vita Prep with variable speed and
the Turbo Chef Sota, which is an oven and
a microwave combo. It can bake quickly as
well as provide a good heat for giving a dish
crunch that gives you a phenomenal result.
They’re very expensive, so I’m glad to have
three of them!
What are your guests asking for
these days?
Lately, they are lactose intolerant or they
want gluten-free desserts, or even harder:
vegan gluten-free. I’ve been doing a lot of research to find
alternatives for traditional pastry ingredients, such as using
almond cream or soy or coconut milk. We have this new
dessert that I call “Tropical Sunset” that is gluten-free – it has
a coconut chiffon on the bottom and a coconut crémeux on
the bottom with an exotic fruit mousse and coconut cream on
the top – guests love it. I just created a peach vegan ice cream
using soy milk. It’s definitely a new set of challenges to test my
skills using non-traditional pastry ingredients. For a gelatin
alternative I use Agar Agar, for example, but it does have a
different texture, so it’s a process to figure out what works.
You won the ACF’s Western Region Pastry Chef of the
Year last year.What was it like competing against the
other chefs and did that experience inspire you to look
for more competitive opportunities?
That was the first time for me to compete in this competition
and it’s a great honor as I was up against a lot of other talented
chefs and states. It was intense because you are timed – we
had to make a cake and an ice cream within 1 hour. It took
a lot of practice and training to prepare for the competition.
Competing against other chefs is inspiring and we’re all
friends. Some of them I’ve competed against in other events
a while back and we have a rapport and share ideas and
feedback with each other. I get to learn new techniques from
my colleagues and become better at my craft. It prepares you
for the next competition. I will definitely continue competing
as well as train some of my staff to do so as well, so we can
compete as a team.
Are there any current pastry trends that drive you
nuts?
Molecular gastronomy – why are we doing this? It’s amazing
in terms of the techniques, but it’s not something that’s going
to last. It’s good for chefs to know how to do it, but it doesn’t
apply all the time, it’s more for showiness.
Also, if I’m experimenting and I can’t get a dish to work,
that drives me nuts. I have to go research and try new things
before I can get it to work the way I’ve envisioned it.
What’s your favorite thing to cook or bake when you’re
not at the hotel?
Asian food and BBQ. I create my own marinades for my BBQ
and I love to experiment with them. I’m more simple when
I cook for myself. At home I don’t bake, but my wife and
daughter do and I guide them. I also like island-style cocktails
and make those pretty often.
Favorite cookbook?
I have so many, but I love Augustus Escoffier’s Le Guide
Culinaire.
What do you love about pastry?
I love the creative process, playing with my palate and
marrying flavors in sweet and sour dishes. Having the sweet
and sour in balance has to work in a dessert as well as in love.
I put a lot of love in my dishes.
How important is it, do you think, to have your own
personal “style” (i.e., signature recipes, etc.)? Is that
something aspiring chefs should try to establish right
off the bat?
It is very important because that’s how you distinguish
yourself. Each person’s style takes a long time to evolve and
develop. It takes many years to figure that out. For me, I’m an
exotic type of pastry chef in terms of the flavors and textures I
gravitate toward.
Favorite medium? Chocolate, plated desserts, baking?
All of the above. I work a lot with chocolate now. When I was
in Vegas, I worked a lot with sugar since it was a low humidity
location so it lasts. When I moved to California, the humidity
was too high to work with sugar as often. I love to create
different dishes and figure out the plating of a dish.
The Ahwahnee south lawn
Photo by Kenny Karst