Chefs on StarChefs

7450 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Biography »

Pamela Lewy: What is your philosophy on desserts?
Julien Wagner: I believe that flavor is more important than aesthetics or glamorous tricks. I also like to incorporate savory ingredients in my desserts to keep things different. I use the natural sugars found in foods like carrots and parsnips.

PL: What restaurants have you worked in as a pastry chef?
JW: Radius in Boston.

PL: Where did you train?
JW: I’m self-taught. I have always worked with great talent and I believe that the best education is experience.

PL: What pastry or kitchen tool can you not live without? Why?
JW: Sharp knives - pastry knives are notoriously dull.

PL: What are your favorite ingredients?
JW: I like everything, but I especially like to cook with basil.

PL: What are your top three tips for dessert success?
JW: First, the dessert has to be something that guests can relate to. For instance, they may spark childhood memories or strike some sort of chord with the chef. Pastry chefs need to be happy with the finished product as well. Second, flavor should be more dominant over aesthetics. Third, don’t be overly creative.

PL: Who are your pastry heroes or mentors?
JW: Paul Connors. I worked with him for three years at Radius and he helped me think with a pastry chef’s mind.

PL: What are your favorite desserts?
JW: Crème Brulee and simple ice cream flavors like coffee, vanilla and chocolate. I like to pair these with many fresh fruits that are so abundant here in California.


Opaline | Los Angeles, CA

While most young pastry chefs his age were sitting in a classroom, Julien Wagner was traveling to exotic locations such as the Yucatan Peninsula, using Mexico’s natural and colorful landscape as his own private classroom. After working for many years in Boston’s best restaurants, Wagner headed to the west coast, excited to create desserts using all the organic and refreshing produce that southern California offers. His ambitious creations marry extraordinary concepts with unexpected flavors. At Opaline, desserts become a flavor adventure as Wagner constructs fresh and sweet dishes that bring a blissful ending to any meal.

Valrhona Chocolate Torte with Pistachio Ricotta Purses

Chef Julien Wagner of Opaline – Los Angeles, CA
Adapted by StarChefs

Yield: 4 Servings


    Chocolate torte
  • ¼ cup unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ounce unsalted butter, plus 1 Tablespoon to grease baking rings
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar, plus 2 Tablespoons to coat baking rings
  • 2 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Valrhona
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature

    Pistachio ricotta purses Valhrona Tort on Star Chefs
  • large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 drop almond extract
  • 12 ( 2 ½ inch) squares phyllo dough
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

  • Bittersweet chocolate sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Valrhona
  • 2 ounces milk chocolate, such as Valrhona

    Cherry sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons port wine
  • ½ cup dried cherries

For chocolate torte:
Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Toast pistachios for three to five minutes. Once cooled, grind nuts and flour in food processor until smooth. Set aside. Increase oven heat to 350°F. Grease four 2 ½ inch baking rings and dust with granulated sugar. Set aside. Combine chocolate and butter and melt over a double boiler, stirring frequently. Once melted, set aside. In an electric mixer with whisk attachment, combine eggs and yolks. Whisk on medium speed until barely frothy. Gradually add 4 Tablespoons of sugar and continue to whisk on medium speed until mixture has tripled in volume. Remove whisk attachment and slowly fold in melted chocolate. Once incorporated, slowly fold in pistachio flour. Place buttered baking rings on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Fill rings halfway with batter and bake for five minutes. Giving rings a half-turn to ensure even baking, bake for another five minutes, or until tops begin to crack. Transfer to a cooling rack. Once cooled, unmold by running a paring knife along inside of rings. The torte may fall slightly. If not serving immediately, wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Warm slightly before serving.

For pistachio ricotta purses:
Preheat oven to 350°F. In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine egg whites and sugar and mix until bright white. Add ricotta, salt, and almond extract and mix until just combined. Chill for two hours. Lay out phyllo squares on work surface and brush each on both sides with melted butter and sugar. Layer three squares on top of each other and gently press together. Repeat with remaining squares to form a total of 4 piles. Place approximately 1 Tablespoon of ricotta filling in the center of each pile of layered Phyllo. To form purses, fold the sides over the filling, and pinch dough gently at the top. Chill for 20 minutes. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 6-8 minutes.

For bittersweet chocolate sauce:
Bring water and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in both chocolates until incorporated. Funnel into squeeze bottle and reserve.

For cherry sauce:
In a medium saucepot, combine water, sugar and port until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Add dried cherries and puree. Pass through a fine mesh sieve and keep cool. Funnel into squeeze bottle and refrigerate until service.

To serve:
Warm both the torte and the ricotta purse in the oven at 325°F for one minute.
Remove torte, carefully placing it on its side, as shown in photograph. Place ricotta purse on opposite side of the plate. Squeeze a wavy line of cherry sauce down the middle of the plate between the torte and the purse. Squeeze a half dollar size amount of chocolate sauce, in front of torte. If desired, place a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to torte on top of the chocolate sauce.

 Published: Feb 2004