Len DePas Photography

Tom Wellings

1700 Tysons Blvd
McLean, VA 22102
(703) 821-1515

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Antoinette Bruno: What year did you begin your culinary career?
Tom Wellings: Around 2001 I went to a community college and the New England Culinary Institute for a year, where I studied culinary arts not pastry. I started cooking at a seafood restaurant on Cape Cod.


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Tom Wellings
Maestro | Washington DC

Tom Wellings grew up in Chicago living a Bohemian lifestyle of painting and working in cafes before realizing that his calling was in the back of house. After a degree in Culinary Arts from the New England Culinary Institute, Wellings went on to stage with Rob Evans of Hugo’s in Portland, Maine. Inspired by the pastry side of the culinary world, Wellings decided to move to New York City to attend The French Culinary Institute. Under the Dean of Pastry, Jacques Torres, Wellings studied the fine arts of pastry, sugar and chocolate. During his first three months in the program, Wellings staged with Pastry Chef Patrick Coston, formerly of ILO, at the Bryant Park Hotel. Taking notice of Wellings taste for the avant-garde, Chef Coston helped him earn a four-month stage under Sam Mason at wd-50. It was under Mason that the doors of creativity were swung open and Wellings’ signature creative style began to take shape.

In his next venture Wellings moved to Virginia where he took to mastering the more traditional pastry craft at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, while studying progressive cooking in books. Two years into his work with Ritz-Carlton, Wellings was offered the position of Head Pastry Chef at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, but was quickly lured back to the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner by the opportunity to take the Pastry Chef position under Fabio Trabocchi at Maestro. Wellings continues to mold his distinctive style with dishes like his Tiramisu. The dish is a study in the classic Italian dessert with added textural impact and intensified flavors. The mascarpone normally folded into a cream is frozen into a smooth sorbet while the coffee flavor imparted to the ladyfingers is made into a sweet and salty crumble and concentrated syrup. A crisp cocoa tuile and concentrated amaretto jelly complete the flavor profile of a tiramisu.

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Interview Cont'd
AB: What is your philosophy on pastry?
TW: I like things clean and creative but also approachable. Seasonality is very important to me as are local farmers.

AB: What restaurants that you have worked in as a pastry chef have been the most influential?
TW: I decided I wanted to be a pastry chef at Hugo’s in Portland, Maine. I did garde mange and pastry there but I preferred the exactness of pastry. I thought I could be more creative in that environment. Sam Mason taught me to think outside of the box.

AB: What was your baking and pastry training? Did you attend culinary school?
TW: I received a pastry degree from the French Culinary Institute in 2004. Then I interned at Ilo with Patrick Coston and spent three months with Sam Mason at wd-50.

AB: What are the most important restaurants where you staged, apprenticed, or externed?
TW: wd-50

AB: What pastry of kitchen tools can’t you live without? Why?
TW: I love my immersion blender for pureeing small quantities and frothing up liquids. My offset spatula is indispensable for picking things up and smoothing them over – I’ve gone through lots of them.

AB: What are you favorite ingredients?
TW: I like spices, especially star anise, and any sensual fruit.

AB: What are you top three tips for dessert success?
TW: Think before you react, be precise and take the time.

AB: Who are your mentors/pastry heroes?
TW: Pierre Hermé’s technique is off the charts.

AB: What are the most notable restaurants you have worked at?
TW: Restaurant Eve and Hugo’s.

AB: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
TW: What cookbooks are you reading? What chefs do you admire? The answers give me insight regarding how they think and what their aspirations are.

AB: What are you favorite cookbooks?
TW: The first El Bulli, 1998-2002

AB: What are your favorite restaurants –off the beaten path—in your city? What is your favorite dish there?
TW: Rabieng has amazing Thai curry bison.

AB: What cuisine are you best known for?
TW: Modern American with experimentation but isn’t that where Modern American is going?

AB: Tell us an interesting or unknown fact about your kitchen and/or career?
TW: I’ve lived in fifteen places around the US.

AB: What are your favorite desserts?
TW: Ice cream, fruit sorbets, warm spice cake and panna cotta.

AB: What trends do you see emerging in pastry arts?
TW: I see more openness between chefs, purveyors and scientists. I also see more emphasis on minimalism and simplicity.

AB: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
TW: Owning my own place like a little gourmet shop with high-end produce, pastries and olive oils.


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   Published: October 2006