Seven Pastry Chefs, Interviewed

by Emily Bell, Katherine Martinelli, and Francoise Villeneuve
Antoinette Bruno
April 2010

After travelling the country meeting and tasting with pastry chefs, we've compiled a collection of interviews with seven of the top talents we've come across. From the Big Apple to Tinseltown, Pastry Chefs Kat Craddock, James Distefano, Kei Hasegawa, Jennifer McCoy, Dahlia Narvaez, Carlos Salgado, and Luis Villavelazquez share their backgrounds, pastry philosophies, and future goals. Read their interviews, bios, and recipes to get an in-depth glimpse into the minds of some of the most impressive pastry chefs across the US.

And for more interviews, bios, and recipes from great young pastry minds, check out our 2009 and 2010 Rising Star Pastry Chefs, Jordan Kahn, Adrian Vasquez, Jiho Kim, Brooks Headley, Robert Truitt, Deanie Hickox-Fox, Dana Cree, and Matt Kelley.

 

Kat CraddockKat Craddock

While getting her English degree, Kat Craddock worked in a cheese shop and realized that while she liked literature, the kitchen was where she belonged. So she moved to Chicago to attend culinary school and never looked back. It wasn’t until her externship with Mindy Segal at Hot Chocolate that Craddock even considered a path in pastry. Now in Boston, Craddock is pastry chef at Andy Husbands’ Tremont 647, where she creates comforting, elegant desserts like peach pie, rice pudding, and donuts.
Biography · Interview
Recipe: Spanish Style Rice Pudding with Ricotta, Local Wildflower Honey, Bruleed Oloroso Grapefruit, Toasted Pistachios, Medjool Dates, and Chamomile

Kat Craddock Related Photo Galleries
Kat Craddock  
Chef Izzy Sarto and Pastry Chef Kat Craddock of Tremont 647 - Boston, MA  

James DistefanoJames Distefano

The kitchen wasn’t foreign territory to pastry chef James Distefano, growing up in a big family with an emphasis on food and gathering. And after discovering a natural affinity for pastry, he hasn’t looked back. Distefano attributes every element of his experience to his current success, from his first jobs in Jersey to his post as executive pastry chef of David Burke & Donatella. Today, working out of the nutritionally-focused kitchen of New York’s Rouge Tomate, Distefano is faced with the challenge of making great pastry and desserts with less of the indulgent ingredients typical of the sweeter course. But Distefano prevails with exquisite pastries that rival their calorie-heavy counterparts in flavor and creativity.
Biography · Interview

James Distefano Related Photo Galleries
James Distefano  
Pastry Chef James Distefano of Rouge Tomate - New York, NY  

Kei HasegawaKei Hasegawa

Pastry Chef Kei Hasegawa of sushi and sake lounge Sashi in Manhattan Beach spent eight years at a restaurant in his native Japan. Since his arrival in the US in 2005, he spent time at Nobu where he met one of his most influential mentors, Gabriel River. He joined the Sashi team in 2009, where he brings his signature light touch and stellar mastery of Japanese techniques to the dessert menu. When asked, Hasegawa claims he favors flavor over presentation, but his plates are surprisingly clean and elegant.
Biography · Interview
Recipe: Green Tea Macaroons

Kei Hasegawa Related Photo Galleries
Kei Hasegawa Kei Hasegawa
Chef Makoto Okuwa and Chef de Cuisine Kei Hasegawa of Sashi - Los Angeles, CA Chef Makoto Okuwa, Chef de Cuisine Yoya Takahashi, and Pastry Chef Kei Hasegawa of Sashi - Los Angeles

Jenny McCoyJennifer McCoy

Pastry Chef Jennifer McCoy moved to New Orleans just days before Hurricane Katrina hit. And while she might have easily justified a hasty retreat from the weather-beaten city, McCoy dug her pastry heels in to help reopen some of the Big Easy’s culinary institutions. That’s because McCoy is a pastry chef who knows when and how—and where—to put in her hours. In her early career McCoy worked in various, and very different kitchens, from the now defunct Chicago institution Gordon to Blackbird under Carol Wang, to six months opening Forge in New York City. In the midst of it all, a position at the front of the house at Bittersweet Bakery turned on McCoy to her true culinary passion, and she’s been working tirelessly at the art and craft of comforting, creative pastry ever since.
Biography · Interview

Jennifer McCoy Related Photo Galleries
Jenny McCoy  
Pastry Chef Jennifer McCoy of A Voce - New York, NY  

Dahlia NarvaezDahlia Narvaez

Having grown up as the cook of her family, becoming a chef was the natural path for Dahlia Narvaez. She started on the savory side as sous chef at Los Angeles institution Campanile. But after a few years on the line, Narvaez developed a sweet tooth and became the restaurant’s pastry chef. Since then she’s honed her talent around town, including a year spent working under Suzanne Tracht at Jar. Most recently she opened Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali’s Mozza and the adjoining Pizzeria Mozza, where she creates homey, comforting desserts that are rooted in Italian culinary tradition.
Biography · Interview
Recipe: Fritelle di Riso with Nocello-Soaked Raisins and Banana Gelato

Dahlia Narvaez Related Photo Galleries
Dahlia Narvaez  
Pastry Chef Dahlia Narvaez of Pizzeria Mozza - Los Angeles, CA  

Carlos SalgadaCarlos Salgado

Pastry Chef Carlos Salgado started out in a very different field as a web developer. It was when trying to recreate the flavors of home that he embarked on his culinary career. After attending culinary school, Salgado worked under 2004 Philadelphia Rising Star Vernon Morales, eventually gravitating toward pastry. He later honed his fresh, high-concept desserts under the wing of industry great Daniel Patterson at San Francisco’s Coi. Now in Oakland, he practices his craft at Commis, carefully balancing savory and sweet elements to create cohesive and elegant, yet daring dishes. He hopes someday to return to savory food, his original focus.
Biography · Interview
Recipe: Bellwether Farms Carmody, Just Warmed, Black Pepper Pastry, Lavender-Onion Jam, and Wild Arugula

Carlos Salgado Related Photo Galleries
Carlos Salgado Carlos Salgado
Chef James Syhabout, Pastry Chef Carlos Salgado, and Sommelier Sarah Valor of Commis - San Francisco Chef James Syhabout of Plumpjack Cafe - San Francisco, C

Luis VillavelazquezLuis Villavelazquez

Pastry Chef Luis Villavelazquez recalls first being interested in pastry as a child when spending time at his mother's workplace, restaurant Sally's in Potrero Hill. In 2007, he began as pastry chef at Orson before joining the team at San Francisco's Absinthe. He specializes in unusual flavor combinations, such as Italian digestif Fernet Branca, honey, and figs, and esoteric ingredients such as beets and Douglas fir. In October 2009, his farmers' market bakery stand also began making its weekly appearance at the Ferry Building with more mainstream cupcakes and doughnuts to expand Absinthe's reach. Eventually he wants to open his own restaurant that transports the late-night dining scene of New York City to San Francisco.
Biography · Interview
Recipe: Green Tea Biscuits with Elderflower-Wrapped Kabosu Lime Parfait, Tobacco Meringue and Black Pepper Grapefruit Reduction

Luis Villavelazquez Related Photo Galleries
Luis Villavelazquez Luis Villavelazquez
Pastry Chef Luis Villavelazquez of Absinthe Brasserie - San Francisco, CA Chef Jamie Lauren of Absinthe Brasserie - San Francisco, CA