Ron Mendoza began his culinary career at the age of 25 after eight years of working in retail. Wanting to pursue a career that was more rewarding on a daily level and more creative on a grander scale, he enrolled at the California School of Culinary Arts. During his studies, Mendoza joined Joachim Splichal's Patina Group, starting on the hot line of Nick and Stef's steakhouse.
Mendoza eventually advanced on to Patina Restaurant where he began rigorous pastry training under Michelle Myers. He continued on to work for David Myers at Restaurant Jaan in both savory and pastry areas. Most recently, Ron worked with both David and Michelle at Sona, where his versatility combined with an incessant energy and enthusiasm inspired him to create noteworthy desserts for the restaurant.
This spring, Ron took on the executive pastry chef position at Ortolan and the opportunity to work with critically acclaimed chef Christophe Eme.
Interview with Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza of Sona Restaurant - Los Angeles, CAAntoinette Bruno:
What is your philosophy on pastry?
I like free-flowing desserts with less structure. Balance is very important, from light to heavy flavors on the plate. I love architecture, buildings, and structures. But an architect told me once “there are no right angles in nature.” I like things that are flowing and natural, and that inspires me.
AB: You attended California School of Culinary Arts; correct?
RM: Yes, I’ve been in pastry for only six years. I started out in savory. Culinary school is good but not the answer for everything or everyone. You must also do your own research. School just aids you.
AB: What pastry or kitchen tools can’t you live without?
RM: I hardly ever use molds. I like organic, free-flowing pastries. My plastic scraper is always in my pocket. I can cut and pick things up with it. I love the Pacojet, I’ve been using it for six years. It makes granitas, ice creams, mousses and whipped creams.
AB: What are your favorite ingredients?
RM: Herbs are very underused in the pastry arts. They add such freshness. And everything starts with fruit, even if it isn’t the main component.
AB: What are your top three tips for dessert success?
RM: Balance of flavors. The best desserts are made in the moment, and textures are key for a fully composed dish.
AB: Who are your mentors/pastry heroes?
RM: Pierre Herme, Albert Adria, and Oriol Balaguer. They are classically trained but innovative. They think outside the box in terms of flavors, textures and techniques.
AB: What are your favorite desserts?
RM: Ice cream. When I have vanilla, I like Tahitian. And gooey chocolate chip cookies.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in pastry arts?
RM: I see the cross of savory and sweet using far more ingredients, like spices, herbs and vegetables, and using cooking techniques like sautéing and braising.
AB: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
RM: Still doing what I’m doing but continually progressing. I would like to teach certain philosophies of desserts.