Sugar Rush

by Rebecca Cohen
September 2013

Restaurant

ICC Pastry Workshops:

  • Slow Fermentation and the Long Road to Loafhood, with Zachary Golper of Bien Cuit
  • Rise Up Flatbreads, with Sherry Yard of Helms Bakery
  • One Woman Show: Yee in the Dining Room and Pastry Shop, with Jennifer Yee of Lafayette
  • Do Me a Flavor with Sam Mason of Oddfellows

With a compelling line-up of delicious workshops and demos just round the corner at this year’s StarChefs.com International Chef’s Congress (ICC) attendees will be spoiled for choice. But for anyone with a sweet tooth, there’s just one place to be—Workin’ It: Sugar in Every Incarnation, a hands-on workshop with Pastry Chef Patrick Fahy.

Monolithic showpieces are great, but what the chef of Sixteen at the Trump Hotel Chicago will demonstrate are techniques that can be used to incorporate blown and pulled sugar into plated desserts and daily service. Imagine ditching glass bowls for delicate blown sugar spheres—an engaging and delicious vessel for presenting mousses, ice creams, and anything else your pastry heart desires. Show-stopping pulled sugar garnishes transform composed desserts into works of art, and house made candies, such as Fahy’s “butterfinger”, make mignardise a memorable ending to the meal.

Sugar Pulled Strawberry

Sugar Pulled Strawberry

Sugar Pulled Strawberry

Sugar Pulled Strawberry

Bartlett Pear Sorbet, Candied Walnuts, Shiso, and Salted Caramel Gastrique

Bartlett Pear Sorbet, Candied Walnuts, Shiso, and Salted Caramel Gastrique

Fahy’s expertise is the product of years of self-directed learning and practice. “One of the things I found difficult was finding someone to teach me techniques for sugar,” he says. “10 years ago, when I was starting to practice it, I was always searching for answers to my questions.” In pursuit of knowledge, Fahy attended a few classes with pastry gurus Jacquy Pfeiffer and Ewald Notter, then devised his own sugar curriculum, setting himself up with a de-humidifier, a sugar lamp, and a work table at home. “I was never fortunate enough to work at a job where someone could teach me, so I practiced at home, on my own time after work.”

Fahy dedicated himself to perfecting the art and science of sugar work. Though he recognizes the suitability of engineered products such as Isomalt in certain applications, he’s “a believer in pure, natural cane sugar,” he says. “Isomalt’s great for show pieces, because it won’t melt down as fast. But when it comes to eating, sugar tastes better.” With close attention to cooking temperatures and acidity levels he achieves spectacular results that are meant to be enjoyed by both the palate and the eye.

On his menus, Fahy uses sugar elements regularly, for “creative reasons and selfish reasons. I need to keep my hands working with it. I have to keep in practice in order to keep it alive.” He gets his cooks in on the fun by re-appropriating skills they learned in other areas of pastry to further their understanding of sugar techniques. “If you know how to make puff pastry or croissant dough, you know how to make a butterfinger—you’re just laminating peanuts and sugar together.”

On Tuesday, October 1, Fahy will share his tricks and techniques with novices and old pros alike, in the unique industry incubator that is the ICC. He’s excited to geek out with other sugar-minded individuals and offer himself as a resource to up-and-coming chefs and sugar artists. “It was hard for me to find someone to [teach me sugar],” he says, “so, that’s why I want to share it now. If there are more people out there sharing it now, I’m very jealous!” Fahy may not realize that his own workshop is going to inspire some jealousy in its own right—from anyone who doesn’t sign up before it fills up.

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