The Architecture of Pastry Plating at Chicago’s North Pond Restaurant

For Pastry Chef Greg Mosko of North Pond, the craft of pastry is all about balancing classical training with his own modern aesthetic. His pastry platings, unsurprisingly, reflect a mix of pastry’s traditional (and exacting) elegance and his own evolving style, which tends to emphasize a clean look. “I’m very much of the belief that you don’t need anything on the plate that doesn’t have to be there,” says Mosko. In a discipline full of dainty flourishes, ubiquitous coulis, creams, syrups, crystallized garnishes, icings, and an embedded geometry (remember, it’s only recently that sponge cake morphed into shapes of  rock and coral), Mosko acts like a referee—he’s not ejecting the players, he’s controlling the look and flavor of the game.

Plating is a huge aspect of that control; it’s the final communication of what the pastry chef believes about his or her creation, how it should be approached and consumed. For Mosko, whose current roster of desserts includes dishes like “Pear, Walnut,” “Huckleberry, Fennel,” and “Chocolate, Pomegranate,” the components determine their own arrangement. “If you go into the dessert knowing you have certain elements you want together,” he says, “you kind of have to force the diner to take all the elements in at one time, to really maximize their effect on the palate.” Mosko works well within this context, playing with the experience and choice of a dessert’s elements. For his Hazelnut Chocolate Mille-feuille, Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, Milk Chocolate Crémeux, Hazelnut Feuilletine, Salted Caramel Mousse, Meyer Lemon Purée, Chocolate Crumble, Chocolate Sauce, and Satsuma Sorbet, Mosko creates a cohesive dessert experience with articulated culinary statements, bridging gaps of negative space with implicit (a faint stroke of chocolate) and actual (the chocolate curl) connections.

If flavor and texture take priority, his personal pastry aesthetic is next in line. And as a rule, Mosko eschews gratuitous flourishes like unnecessary height, garnish, or unseasonal use of color for a more efficient elegance. And he’s the first to admit he’s still evolving. “I’m very young as far as pastry goes,” he explains. “I’m very classically grounded. And I’m still working toward bringing out a modern kind of style to figure out that balance. I’m still very hungry.”