Interview with Chef Sam Mason of wd~50 - New York, NY

April, 2005

Amy Tarr: What got you interested in pastry?
Sam Mason: I kind of fell into it. I went to a vocational school, and the only class I did well in was commercial foods. Towards the end I received a scholarship to Johnson and Wales, so I said, alright this is what I’m going to do.

AT: What is your philosophy on pastry?
SM: Everything’s open game as far as foodstuff. Culinary or pastry; there are no boundaries. There’s a liaison between savory and dessert: I’m looking to fill that bridge. When you’re trained in pastry you’re a little more meticulous, precise. Precision is key. Savory is a little less styled, less calculated. Thank God Wylie is very formulaic and calculated.

AT: You did a stage with Pierre Hermé, and you have also worked with Jean-Louis Palladin. Do you consider both to be your mentors?
SM: Jean Louis Palladin was definitely my biggest life mentor in terms of how I live my life today. He was extremely selfless and lived every day as full as he could. I wish I could live more for today – but in NYC, you kinda have to plan ahead.

AT: What pastry or kitchen tools can’t you live without? Why? Brand specific?
SM: Immersion circulator – it’s science equipment made for laboratories. It keeps temperature accurate within a tenth of a degree, moving water around to keep a constant temperature. I use it all the time for poaching sous vide; anything really slow or delicately cooked. I have to have a radio. Can’t work without an ice cream machine: Taylor and pacojet. Couldn’t live without my Vitaprep: nothing else works.

AT: What are your favorite desserts?
SM: Ones that aren’t sweet. I change my menu as frequently as possible. I need change. My favorite dishes are ones that are new. As long as it’s balanced and not cloying. Salt and vinegar chips are my favorite.

AT: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
SM: I plan on opening my own place—a late night dessert lounge. Music, candles, pillows: it will be intimate, but also social. Right now we’re in the early stages. My investors are bar people. There’ll be savory food, but a small amount: savory cotton candy with foie gras; foie gras lollipops covered in meringue and blow torched; deconstructed French onion soup. I hope it’ll open within six months to a year. Something the city hasn’t seen.

AT: What trends do you see emerging in pastry?
SM: We stay excited about things going on in Spain. It’s their approach. We try to mentally keep abreast. Spain is still the sexiest trend on the culinary and pastry forefront.