Pastry Chef Morgan Wilson
Bijoux | Dallas
At only 11, Morgan Wilson was already catering full dinners
for his parents at $20 a pop. But it wasn't until 1995 that Wilson
got a taste of real kitchen work in a small Italian bistro in Ashland,
Oregon. Immediately, he knew he wanted to be a chef. Wilson began
researching culinary schools in the US and decided to attend The
California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, where he studied everything
from classic garde manger and charcuterie to cakes and plated desserts.
Pastry chef instructor Nicholas Snell showed Wilson the magic and
the endless possibilities of the pastry kitchen, and after his externship
and graduation, Wilson sought out his first professional pastry
Wilson found an assistant pastry chef job at The
Essex Supper Club, where he stayed for a year before teaming
up with Chef/Proprietor Arnold E. Wong at EOS Restaurant and
Wine Bar in San Francisco. After prepping and plating his creations
for a year, Wilson’s heart was set on pastry and he flew to
Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, to study bread, chocolate, sugar and plated
desserts. On his return to San Francisco, Wilson took a position
at Bradley Ogden and George Marrone’s One Market.
In the summer of 1999 Wilson was asked to open a new restaurant
in Sao Paulo, Brazil by an old acquaintance from France. At Cannelle
in Brazil Wilson met Francois Payard, who was investigating a location
for Payard Patisserie and Bistro. Thrilled at the chance
to learn from the pastry star chef, Wilson handed over his resume
and was hired almost immediately to run the patisserie kitchen at
night and produce the desserts for the bistro. After a year, Wilson
was asked to open a massive project in the old revamped location
of Cannelle and began creating a new menu of Italian breads
and desserts for Supra.
After 3 ½ years in Brazil, Wilson decided
to come home and began sending his resumes out across the country.
He was offered the pastry chef position at Aubergine in
Newport Beach, California where he was first introduced to the tasting
menu format with Scott Gottlich, the inspiring and exciting Chef
When Wilson and his wife were expecting a baby,
he sought out a less hectic schedule and began teaching to spend
more time with his family. For three years he taught pastry at the
California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena before getting back
in the game by opening Bijoux with Gottlich. There, Wilson
plays with classic pastry forms and flavors in his delicately built
desserts to create clean, modern plates. His espresso mascarpone
trifle is both English trifle and Italian tiramisu, yet refuses
to be defined as either one. His carrot cake is a dainty deconstructed
version of the classic with every element actually refined and more
delicious than in its original form of frosting and sponge - with
Morgan's high-level technique and focus of flavor, his revisions
of the classics are always thoughtful improvements on the original.
His commitment to his purveyors is so strong that when his strawberry
farmer suffered a bad harvest, he rethought his menu rather than
buy from someone else.
AB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
MW: After studying in Paris,
I moved out to San Francico to work at One Market. In 1999
I was invited to open Cannnelle in Sao Paulo. While in
Brazil I met Francois Payard and he hired me to run the patisserie
kitchen at night and produce the desserts for the bistro. After
almost four years in Brazil I was offered the pastry chef position
at Aubergine in Newport Beach, California with Scott Gottlich.
I have also taught pastry classes at The California School of Visual
AB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
MW: Share your passion; don’t
just cook for yourself. Try to always balance texture and flavor,
and above all, have fun!
AB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you
hire chefs with and without a culinary school background?
MW: I went to The California
Culinary Academy (CCA) in San Francisco and then went on to study
at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I think culinary school is important.
I would be nowhere without the basics I learned in school, and those
basics are really the basis for all I do. But when I hire people
a formal culinary education isn’t essential. One of our dishwashers
became a prep cook because he earned it and could work well.
AB: Who are some of your mentors?
MW: Francois Payard, Scott
Mezola, and Arnold Wong.
AB: What languages do you speak?
MW: English, French, and Portuguese.
AB: Which chefs do you consider to be your peers?
MW: Katherine Clapner at Stephan
Pyles and Shannon Swindle at Craft.
AB: Is there any ingredient that you feel is particularly under
appreciated or under utilized?
MW: Fennel: because of its
obscurity it’s often not considered by chefs, especially in
desserts. Almonds because they are so versatile. I like anise flavors
in desserts like licorice jelly beans and Pernod bonbons.
AB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
MW: Mayan chocolate and citrus
are key. Carrot and fennel is good. I like working with classic
combinations like prune and Armagnac.
AB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
MW: Everything starts with a scale in my kitchen.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
MW: Any books by Jaques Torres,
Norman Love, Richard Leech and Emily Ludeti. The Last Course:
The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming is another
AB: Where do you like to go
for culinary travel? Why?
MW: I always love to go to
New York, and I'd like to go to El Bulli and Oriol Balaguer's
place in Barcelona.
AB: What are your favorite
restaurants-off the beaten path-in your city?
MW: Blue Goose on
Greenville Avenue for Mexican tortillas, chimichangas, and slow
AB: What trends do you see
emerging in the restaurant industry now?
MW: A lot of people are bringing
back classic gelatins and pâte de fruits. Dessert bars are
getting big too.
AB: What is your favorite dessert to make? What is your favorite
dessert to eat?
MW: To eat it's Tiramisu made
with great coffee and mascarpone. When cooking I really like to
work with chocolate and make bonbons.
AB: Which person in history
would you most like to have dinner with?
MW: I would like to dine with
Escoffier. I would make a cabernet-poached pear and black truffle
AB: What is your pastry philosophy?
MW: I try to constantly adapt.
I don’t want to test diners, I want to deliver things at a
higher and more sophisticated level than they are used to.
AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be
MW: Pushing up daisies probably...or
maybe I’d be an engineer, working on large structures.
AB: What does success mean
for you? What will it look like for you?
MW: I want to expand my horizons
here. I need to prevent my outlook from becoming dated so I want
to keep learning.
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