Finalist Pastry Profile: Pastry Chef Chris Ford of Trummer's on Main

Finalist Pastry Profile: Pastry Chef Chris Ford of Trummer's on Main
December 2010

If Chris Ford weren’t a pastry chef, he might have been a fashion photographer. The subjects of his photographs today are much, much sweeter than the snaps of pouty, starved supermodels or arty shots filled with vacuous negative space that he might have produced as a photographer.

A photography enthusiast, blogger, and quenelling machine, Ford regularly posts flawless shots of his latest experiment, whether its his favorite new black sesame-chocolate macaroon creation or whatever the latest raw ingredient that catches his fancy. The fact that he’s only 24 doesn’t seem to hold him back. He is busy making plans, like publishing his first cookbook by the time he’s 30.

A Florida native, Ford enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu Program at the Orlando Culinary Academy. His externship site, Norman’s of Norman Van Aken at The Ritz-Carlton would end up being his first kitchen job after graduation. Here he met Clayton Miller, who is now executive chef at Trummer’s on Main. They worked together for two years before Ford left for the bright lights of New York City and a sous chef position at quirky dessert bar ChikaLicious. Chef-owner Chika Tillman’s ingredient-centric, modernistic dessert aesthetic had an enormous impact on him during his two years there and helped him make delicate flavors sing.

Anxious to conquer new culinary terrain, Ford moved to the small town of Clifton, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. Trummer’s on Main opened just over a year ago, but already Ford and Miller have been happily overwhelmed with critics who are enthusiastically showering them with coveted accolades.

Pastry Competition Interview with Pastry Chef Chris Ford of Trummer's on Main - Clifton, VA

Francoise Villeneuve: You’ve said that you don’t really like competition. What made you decide to compete in the First Annual Pastry Competition?
Chris Ford: I have always been a little stand off-ish to competition but I thought the challenge to push myself would be fun and great growth for me as a chef.

FV: What was the inspiration behind the pre-dessert?
CF: The pre dessert actually came from my basil pound cake recipe, I wanted to showcase that for sure. The remaining elements I and my pastry sous chef came up with. I wanted something fresh and different, a great big way to make it through the first round.

FV: Tell me about your plated dessert.
CF: The plated dessert was definitely a challenge. I don't normally work with the addition of strong cheeses in my desserts so to incorporate that and keep it is my style was a great challenge. I figured everyone would go with the blue cheese because of the wow factor, but the Les Frères was the only cheese that could be kept a soft flavor element for me. I wanted to cover every range of flavors in that dessert, to keep it elegant and wow the judges at the same time. To do so was to keep it simple and strong, showcasing the elements that would make the cheese flavor shine yet blend in.

FV: The textures and techniques you used in the chocolate round were pretty impressively varied. Were you happy with the results?
CF: I was very happy with my work in the third round. I went into this competition not thinking I would make it to the third round and if I did I would try my best. I am still young in my career and would say chocolate is my weakest point, so to have made it that far, I was happy. I did things I have always wanted to do and things I have never done, which made the competition so worth it.

FV: Anything turn out differently than you envisaged?
CF: The only thing I would change would be the timing of the second round with the adding the cheese element. It melted a little due to condensation. Everything else turned out exactly how It was pictured in my head for the three weeks before the competition.

FV: Did the products you had to use behave the way you thought they would?
CF: I had worked with most of the products prior so I can say that everything worked as the way it should.

FV: What’s one thing you would have done differently?
CF: I wouldn't change a thing, I was extremely happy with my performance, timing and work.

FV: How do you prepare for a competition like this where some of the ingredients aren’t revealed until you’re there?
CF: Mentally prepare yourself for whatever. You know going in there are going to be some bumps but just be yourself in the end.

FV: What was your favorite moment from the pastry competition?
CF: Sitting backstage with Ian and Ron waiting for the results drinking champagne, the thing was done. After three eighteen hour days we could sit and breathe.

FV: Were you nervous when you heard who the judges would be?
CF: Very much so! Great chefs to be in front of so it made the challenge even more intense.

FV: What advice would you give a pastry chef interested in entering next year’s International Pastry Competition?
CF: Be yourself. It's easy to lose yourself. You start to think of things just to impress and be different. Everything I put out, I would do at the restaurant and stand very proud next to.

FV: What do you think a pastry competition showcases in its competitors? What strengths came out? What weaknesses?
CF: That's a very individual questions, so I can only answer for myself. I think every strength should shine, confidence and individuality. Follow your thoughts and push yourself, know your weaknesses before you go in so they don't slip out.

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