2016 San Francisco Rising Star Pastry Chef Edward Martinez of Cadence

2016 San Francisco Rising Star Pastry Chef Edward Martinez of Cadence
May 2016

Edward Martinez’s happiest childhood memories are of baking with his mother. Tragically, she died when he was 7, and his father moved the family from San Jose to Fresno. At 13, he was already initiated into the city’s gang culture. Like many teenagers yearning for independence and pocket money, Martinez took a job as a dishwasher at 14, but gang life took over, and by 20 he was facing eight years in prison. Martinez pled no contest to a misdemeanor and, after imploring the judge, was allowed to enroll in a culinary program at Frenso’s Institute of Technology, knowing that if he screwed up, he’d be locked up for the full eight years. Defying expectations, Martinez excelled at pastry, graduated at the top of his class, and staged with Rising Stars alum Matt Tinder at Meadowood. 

Pastry naturally appealed to Martinez’s geeky, obsessive, perfectionist side. He first took this sensibility  to Bistro Jeanty in Yountville as pastry chef. Not yet ready to lead a kitchen, he left after eight months and moved into the world of high-end cakes at Perfect Endings in Napa. While working again as a restaurant pastry chef at Sacramento’s Enotria, Martinez met Joey Elenterio of Michelin-starred Chez TJ. Later, the two would work side by side at Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco. After Martinez put in time at Bourbon Steak and Guy Savoy, he reunited with friend and mentor Elenterio to open Cadence, where his exquisite touch, heart, and soul are in every dessert. 

Interview with San Francisco Rising Star Edward Martinez of Cadence

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start?
Edward Martinez:
I worked as a dishwasher at a barbeque place in Fresno when I was 14. I needed money and my dad said I needed to get a job. 

[At 20, I was facing] nine years in prison, with 2 strikes and gang enhancements. [I was offered a diversion program] and chose to go to culinary school at the Institute of Technology - Clovis. It was a good experience. I loved it. I did the pastry program and then stayed at night to do the pastry part of the savory program; I was on parole, and they let me stay all day. I never got lower than a 98 percent, and graduated at the top of my class. I’m a perfectionist. I like to geek out, and need everything where I want it to be. I'm really obsessive—I have the word tattooed on my knuckles. 

Then I took a pastry chef job at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. I wasn’t ready; I left after 8 months. Then I started working at Perfect Endings in Napa, doing high-end wedding cakes and cakes in general; did stuff for Oprah. I got my skills high up there for cake decoration within a year. But my wife at the time didn't like living in Napa; It's hot and there’s nothing to do. There’s a bowling alley and movie theatre, that's it. So, I worked at a couple restaurants out there until I met Joey [Elenterio] at a guest chef dinner. We really hit it off. I ended up moving to San Francisco because Joey worked at Wayfare. I was pasty chef at El Paseo for seven months, then took over pastry at Wayfare with Joey.

After that I worked at Bourbon Steak for a year, and Gui Savoy. The chef there didn’t speak English very well, and I got yelled at in French a lot, and got instructions in French, and I had to figure it out. Just say "Oui." I spent almost a year there, then Joey called me about this place, [Cadence]. I said yes, I'll do it.  

SK: Whom do you consider mentors so far in your career?
Matt Tinder; I staged with Matt at Meadowood in 2007. We talk a lot, he's a really cool guy ... Bill Corbett, and Juan Contreras. Joey is one of my biggest influence and mentors, as a chef and friend.   

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
I've been cooking in San Francisco for three years now. Any events that Joey or I do—we're like a really strange package deal—If either of us is planning for some event, we both show up. 

SK: What is the biggest challenge of your job?
Recognizing what is and what is not feasible is a challenge. I want to do so many cool things but I have to figure out what is practical and what will work, what the clientelle will like. We get a lot of techies in here.  

SK: What is your five year plan? 
I want to still be working with Joey. But the end game for me is New York with my own all dessert restaurant. Desserts are all I want to cook, no menu, whatever I decide to make is what you get.