Interview with Rising Star Pastry Chef Aaron Russell

June 2012

Katherine Sacks: What inspired you?
Aaron Russell: I started out as a savory chef. I needed a way to earn money in high school, so I started cooking when I was 16, and I just kind of took to it. I really enjoyed it, and it was fun enough that I never branched out or tried any other business.

KS: What is your philosophy on food and cooking?
AR: My style is what I like personally, what I do is aimed at pleasing the guests who come in here. The majority of work that I do is making dessert along the lines of ganache, which is quite sweet and appeals to a broader group. I do less of desserts like buckwheat, which is more what I like.

KS: What goes into creating a dish?
AR: It all just seems to happen without much thought. As far as inspiration goes, my favorite ingredients come from the farmers. Often times, we don't order anything specific from the farmers, Linton [Hopkins] just buys what they have left, and I pair it with what we have on hand. It’s all done in my head, I don't taste things together until the dish is composed. And then I adjust from there; some dishes require longer, 2 to 3 days. Sometimes ingredients are played with, the texture [altered] or a change in ratios, but for the most part the picture and execution are pretty close to what I have in mind.

KS: What is the toughest thing you’ve had to do?
AR: Teaching myself how to make bonbons. Reading, tempering, and scaling the recipes.

KS: What trends do you see emerging?
AR: I think that restaurants on a lot of levels are using a lot more farmer products. Other people are using wild foraged vegetables and flowers, and I think that will keep increasing.

KS: What is your favorite underappreciated ingredient?
AR: I think I might like to see more herbs and vegetables that are usually seen on the savory side like wood sorrel, mushrooms, and turnips. I like to make desserts out of these when I can.

KS: What would you do if you weren’t a chef?
AR: This is all I've ever done for money. I like to think I'd be working in fundamental research somewhere.

KS: What’s next for you? Where will we find you in five years?
AR: I wouldn't be surprised if I was still here. I think I am done moving around.