For the past 19 years, Dessert Professional Magazine has hosted an awards and tasting party for the country’s top ten pastry chefs. Last night, at the Institute of Culinary Education, New York took the largest piece of the winning pie with chefs Sandro Micheli from Daniel, Marc Aumont from The Modern, Angela Pinkerton from Eleven Madison Park, Damien Harrgott from Bosie Tea Parlor, and the city’s darling, Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar.
As they lined up with the other winner—Sally Camacho from WP24 in Los Angeles, Craig Harzewski from Naha in Chicago, Nathaniel Reid from Norman Love Confections in Florida, Jean-Marie Auboine from his self-titled shop in Las Vegas, and Chris Hanmer from Las Vegas’s School of Pastry Design—I couldn’t help but notice all the champs were skinny. I’m not talking about just being smaller than Mario Batali, but I-never-even-eat-dessert thin. Oh well, so what if Tosi looks like she could be a vegan? It’s her pretzel and chocolate-chip cake-truffles we really care about.
You can just look at Tosi’s innovative creations to see that the art of dessert has come a long way. While a decade ago the real trick came in making superb chocolate mousse, a moist flourless chocolate cake, or perfect, airy pastries, today’s chefs have made dessert more than the end of the meal treat. They are creating art. Take Pinkerton’s lavender meringue with cocoa sorbet, for example; it didn’t look like anything you would order off a cafeteria sweets bar. The dish she offered had layers of crumble, cold, hard, light, sweet, and sour—all on one plate, which is a theme she carries over to Eleven Madison Park. Tosi too has been known for her original use of packaged crackers, pretzels, and various candies to spruce up cookies and cakes. Based on some of the other dishes at the awards ceremony, this trend isn’t going away, and people like it.
As guests fought to sample the gourmet sweets, past award winner Pichet Ong of Spot Dessert Bar flittered about the tables, garnering an excited “Hey chef” every where he went. Anita Lo of Annisa was also seen heading to the dessert room where Top Chef: Just Desserts Season Two winner Chris Hanmer whipped up a modern looking pineapple confit with a crazy tube of passion fruit studded with cilantro. Hanmer’s show mate and the United States representative of the Culinary Olympics in Germany, pastry chef Sally Camacho, also offered an interesting dessert involving a cup filled with a landscape of fluffy, crumbly, stiff, floral, salty, and chocolaty.
Across New York you can find enjoyable desserts like the ones represented at the awards including the crazy flavors of rice pudding at Rice to Riches, everything chocolate at The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn, and next level desserts by chef Justin Hilbert of Gwynnett St., also in Brooklyn. If you happen to be in San Francisco, check out Humphry Slocombe ice cream parlor where Jake Godby creates the strangest flavors including salt and pepper, oolong tea, and peanut butter curry.
Despite all the innovative desserts being passed around the culinary school last night, I still go for the simplest, like Jean-Marie Aubione’s perfect chocolates and crispy bars and the bright raspberry and chocolate pastry by Nathaniel Reid. No matter how you like your sweets, though, there is something for everyone to indulge in.