Six Pastry Chefs
Starchefs.com travels the world meeting and tasting with pastry chefs, including our fabulously talented Rising Stars Pastry Chefs, and International Chefs Congress presenters. These six stood out to us as examples of what the future of pastry might look like, the hope of the future, if you will. Read the in-depth profiles of Pastry Chefs Jordi Butrón, Johnny Iuzzini, Jordan Kahn, Michael Laiskonis, Uyen Nguyen, and Alex Stupak. Check out their interviews, bios, and recipes to tap into the minds of some of the most impressive pastry talent across the globe.
Considered a true innovator in the world of pastry, Jordi Butrón has been pushing the frontiers of the field since the early 1990s. At a time when the French were dominating the art with sweet, meticulously presented confections, Butrón was creating extraordinary taste sensations by combining sweet and savory in a single dish and alternating the two over a multi-course tasting menu. Espaisucre is the brainchild of Butrón and partner Xano Saguer, both promoters and developers of a new way of restaurant-style pastry. Butrón studied at the Escuela de Restauración y Hostelería in Barcelona and apprenticed at the famous Pastelería Escribà before taking a position at El Dorado Petit and then Jean Luc Figueras. He staged at el Bulli, Pierre Gagnaire, and Michel Bras, and in February 2000 opened the acclaimed Espaisucre Pastry School in Barcelona (with Saguer) as a platform for spreading his avant garde approach to desserts. The public can sample his confections at the restaurant Espaisucre, where he pursues the risky but meditated goal of breaking dessert boundaries. In 2008 Chef Butrón presented at the StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress.
With a decade of professional pastry experience, including formative years at Daniel in the disciplined kitchen of Executive Pastry Chef François Payard as well as opening Payard Patisserie as pastry sous chef, and with thousands of miles of self-guided international pastry education under his belt, Iuzzini became one of the youngest executive pastry chefs to preside over a three-Michelin starred restaurant. And it’s there, at Jean Georges, that Iuzzini continues to push the boundaries of the sweet course with the complex, elegant creations that inspired his first cookbook, Tastings. As seasons drive Iuzzini to new ingredients, his roster of four-plays is constantly evolving. But while the menu at Jean Georges marches on, Iuzzini’s latest cookbook Dessert Fourplay crystallizes the essence of his imagination, acting like a cookbook kaleidoscope full of his ideas. One peek inside and the full spectrum of Iuzzini’s imagination will be colorfully, brilliantly apparent.
We have been following 2010 Los Angeles-San Diego Rising Star Chef Jordan Kahn’s career for years, from his savory days at The French Laundry, to his time as a waiter (and later in the kitchen) at Alinea, and his work at Per Se and wd~50. Today he has grown to be one of the most talented, imaginative young pastry chefs in the country. At Michael Mina’s XIV, Kahn was part mad scientist and part artist, creating inventive desserts that resemble modern art and are anything but traditional. Kahn’s techniques are remarkably innovative, highly modern, and flawlessly executed. Each of his pastry creations follow a theme, as in a study of strawberries that includes Strawberries with Elderflower Meringue, White Chocolate Sphere filled with Frais de Bois Puree, Cacao Fruit Sorbet, Violet Sauce, and Beet Genois. No ingredient is too foreign for Kahn, who is constantly playing and experimenting; he even makes “wood” ice cream that has been infused with applewood. For his latest project, a restaurant called Red Medicine in LA, Kahn will be stepping on the savory side to create Vietnamese-inspired dishes and desserts.
Michael Laiskonis' desserts at Le Bernardin are well-crafted balances of art and science. Coming from both savory and pastry training, his desserts are marked by interesting textures and thoughtful integration of savory and sweet. This 2006 New York Rising Star Chef pulls from various sources for inspiration; for example, his take on olive oil and chocolate is inspired by Comerç 24 in Barcelona. Michael’s sensibilities perfectly complement Le Bernardin's style of light, inventive, elegant food.
2008 Las Vegas Rising Star Uyen Nguyen was born in Vietnam but grew up in Orange County, CA. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of California, Irvine, she attended the internationally acclaimed culinary school, l’Ecole Lenôtre in Paris. With Grand Diplôme in hand, Nguyen embarked on a culinary career at celebrated establishments like Pâtisserie Gaulupeau in Versailles, as well as at Las Vegas establishments Le Cirque at the Bellagio and Fleur de Lys at Mandalay Bay. As pastry chef at the Las Vegas venue of the famed Parisian restaurant, Guy Savoy, Nguyen returns to her French culinary roots and brings extensive skills to the task of working with an exceptionally talented team.
Alex Stupak’s entry into pastry wasn't exactly intentional. After a stint as tournant at Tru in Chicago, Stupak was offered the sous chef position at The Federalist in Boston. However, a twist of fate landed him in the position of pastry chef. Fascinated by innovation and technique, and seeking an environment that supported his vision, Stupak returned to Clio to become the restaurant’s first pastry chef. Soon after, the accolades began to pour in: Boston Magazine awarded him the title of “Best Pastry Chef” in 2003; the following year Food & Wine Magazine hailed him as “a visionary.” It wasn't long before Chef Grant Achatz asked Stupak to head his pastry team for the opening of the now landmark restaurant Alinea. After two years with Achatz, Stupak was offered the pastry chef position at Wylie Dufresne's wd~50, fulfilling Stupak's ambition to work in New York City and continue his pursuit of innovation. Stupak was named StarChefs.com 2005 Chicago Rising Star Pastry Chef.