I thought we’d all agreed that pastry was back. I thought Ansel was educating fools on why they should support pastry chefs. Apparently, while I was busy testing recipes for my spring veggie dessert menu (more on that and my feelings on “savory” desserts in a bit), the internet ass-fucking-sploded over this article by Adam Platt.
Almost immediately, a follow up article was posted, with different chefs’ opinions.
Before I really get into it, I’m a little annoyed that they lament well-known pastry chefs who have left the sweet side of the restaurant or moved into teaching roles. There are many of us who are coming up behind them, learn some new names. Or do we need it printed on a dust jacket before you’ll give a shit?
First off: Who the fuck is making $50-60k a year?! I’m currently making the most I ever have and it’s still not even close! Granted I don’t work in fine dining, and have no real interest in moving beyond upscale casual, but really.
Second: Why do people need a million petit fours? It’s silly. Especially to include such expensive goodies as chocolates and macarons (almond flour ain’t cheap even wholesale). This is why I offer a cookie plate (FOR SALE and no it CANNOT be comped to ANYONE): you can sample a range of little nibbles that range from crunchy biscotti to indulgent truffles to twee animal crackers. I think it’s outdated to expect a parade of free shit (bread isn’t always free anymore, either, although it is more commonly being made in house and with love). Tough economic times, bitches.
I take offense and feel fighty about Chef Mattos’s statement about savory cooks being better at handling sugar. I so disagree. And if I wanted to make fucking showpieces I’d work in a hotel. I don’t give a shit about architectural chocolate or pulled sugar. Heck I don’t even like those spiky caramel covered hazelnuts (great way to slice up your gums as far as I’m concerned). I have a great palate and so do most other pastry professionals I know. I pride myself in never making a dessert that’s too sweet (except that one time). I have actually recently referred to my current style of desserts as “shit a savory chef would conceptualize but with the pastry skills to make it not suck.”
And? I only ever make a cheap shot like panna cotta for parties or prix fixe menus. Get with it. Try a fucking posset, man.
With that, we arrive at vegetable desserts and my current odd offerings.
This is my pear terrine. Based on Dana Cree’s apple cake (technically Scott Carsberg’s), it’s baked in a terrine mold, chilled, sliced thinly and brûléed to order with toasty vanilla sugar. It comes with a scoop of badass parsnip gelato and something I like to call birdseed brittle. And parsnip chips, cut and gently prodded into shape with tweezers (sweet blessed tweezers, tongs feel like mitten-hands in comparison) in a fryer so that they resemble dried flowers, then dusted in mace sugar. It’s a little weird but it sells.
I’m debuting a pretty much all-vegetable dessert menu next week for spring, encouraged by the sales of the terrine. Also I heard people like vegetable desserts? Anyway. I’m bored to death by my options this time of year. No one wants a heavy nut-based dessert in early March. It’s not like I won’t jump on berries and stone fruit with rabid ferocity the second they appear. But I’m so over the early spring “is there rhubarb yet is there rhubarb yet is there rhubarb yet?” mantra that everyone in pastry knows by heart. There are other vegetables to be had and I’ll be exploiting them.
I needed a place holder until then in the form of a chocolate dessert, and was so fucking uninspired trying to make things like pot de creme and rice pudding (complete failure of a chocolate risotto experiment). I don’t remember how I came up with it but decided I wanted to make a really salty, umami-esque gelato to go with whatever I ended up doing. I was strongly considering Parmesan but figured I’d ask about scraps of charcuterie lingering in the lowboy and ended up with a few ounces of jamon Serrano. So I made gelato with it, fully expecting it to be awful, but it wasn’t. It actually tastes a lot like Parm, but with a distinct chicharron aftertaste. It’s a total umami bomb, and it goes perfectly with chocolate-chocolate chip polenta cake, sitting on a schmear of caramel infused with toasted curing spices. A little dusting of finely ground fennel seed and some cocoa nib meringues finish the plate.
Weird? Hell yeah. Delicious? Double hell yeah. Did I think it would sell? Fuck no! But we 86ed that shit by 9 pm the first night it was on the menu.
Since I’m home with a comfy kitty in my lap and a little whisky in my belly, I’m going to start the incendiary shoutouts.
Hey Fraser. “Craveable”???? Are you fucking serious? I don’t crave “carrots wellington.” Seriously are you being paid by, like, NaBisCo?
And Freitag? I think banana splits land squarely in the realm of nostalgic/outdated but cool in a hipster way/lol let’s relive our childhoods because our adult lives are so fucking empty.
DeMasco? You’re cool. The only one I completely agree with in this article. Pastry chefs, take heed: If you’re not willing to create some overlap between your department and the rest of the kitchen, if you’re not willing to observe their plating styles and adapt your style to fit that of your chef’s, if you’re not willing to ask yourself or others where you can help to elevate other parts of the restaurant, then get the fuck out and never show your face again, you selfish flouncing princess.