What up-and-coming pastry chefs can learn from Netflix’s “Chef’s Table”
For people who love cooking, the Netflix documentary series “Chef’s Table” has been full of inspiration and helpful guidance. Each episode focuses on a different acclaimed expert in the culinary arts, exploring the creative methods and unstoppable work ethics that drive the creation of some of the world’s best food. The fourth season in particular is attracting interest from students of the baking and pastry arts by spotlighting four of the greatest pastry chefs working today.
There’s a lot to be learned from these makers of amazing desserts, both about how to cook and perseverance in the face of adversity. Here are some key takeaways for anyone who is devoted to preparing fantastic sweets:
Exceptional pastry about precision and dedication
“Pastry chefs concentrate on getting the details right.”
While some of the cooking professionals featured on past editions of “Chef’s Table” have exhibited more improvisational flair, the fourth season’s stars concentrate on getting the details right. Measuring every ingredient carefully, closely monitoring baking times and experimenting with recipes until they are perfect are all recurring themes.
That dedication to the craft is especially important if they are making dishes that are both innovative and visually elegant like Spanish chef Jordi Roca. He built his reputation by engaging all the senses with his painstakingly constructed items that have been compared to magic tricks.
The stars of the show arrive in their kitchens early in the morning and work throughout the day to ensure their creations come out just right. Christina Tosi of Milk Bar notes that the marks of a chef who is truly committed to this vocation are showing up earlier than everyone else, contributing to the family meal shared by the staff and staying as late as necessary.
Embrace classic flavors while expressing yourself
Each of these pastry chefs has a thorough understanding of how to make a variety of traditional items, but they also find opportunities to put their own stamp on each creation. Italian chef Corrado Assenza’s pastry shop, Caffe Sicilia, carries on generations of family tradition by turning out old-school gelato, granita and cannoli with only the finest ingredients from local farms, but he has also discovered ample room for experimentation. By recalling memories of swimming in the ocean as a child, Assenza found the idea to draw on the tastes of oysters, making a uniquely satisfying new gelato.
Tosi is known for using her culinary training to put creative spins on family-style desserts, like her trademark Crack Pie featuring a sweet and salty butter filling in a toasted oat crust. She sums up her philosophy by explaining her dislike for cakes that are all-too-often overly dry on the inside, with too much care poured into the frosting instead. She prefers to skip the frosting and make sure the cake itself captures all the right tastes.
When dessert is good enough, it can stand alone
A delicious treat is the perfect way to complete an indulgent meal, but the chefs in the show demonstrate how a highly successful establishment can built on a commitment to remarkable desserts alone. Tosi’s Milk Bar, which began as a part of David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant group, became its own chain with nine New York City locations and outposts with Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and Toronto. Each restaurant draws crowds by eliciting nostalgia while transforming the flavors of cereal and bagels into something new.
At Room 4 Dessert in Indonesia, American transplant Will Goldfarb offers a nine-course tasting menu of his avant-garde inventions. Guests enjoy an array of desserts with unusual ingredients and cheeky names like Roger Federer or Scarborough Pear. By highlighting this unrestrained creativity, “Chef’s Table” shows aspiring culinary professionals the boundless potential to be found in dessert.