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Pastry Chef Morgan Wilson  ON STARCHEFS.COM
Patrick Langlinais

Morgan Wilson
Bijoux
5450 W Lovers
Dallas, TX 75209
(214) 350-6100

Recipe »

Interview:
Antoinette Bruno: When and why did you start cooking? What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Morgan Wilson: I started when I was 11 catering dinners for my parents at $20 a pop! My first kitchen job during the summer in a little Italian Bistro in Ashland, Oregon.

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Pastry Chef Morgan Wilson
Bijoux | Dallas


Biography
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 position.

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 de Cuisine.

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.

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Interview Cont'd
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 Arts.

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 favorite.

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 cooked brisket.

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 ice cream.

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 doing?
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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  •    Published: April 2007

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