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Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Last night, I was invited by Ruskin International to attend the gathering of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America hosted by Dessert Professional Magazine.  I arrived early for the press hour and managed to grab a few photos of all of the hard work going on to prepare for this event and to snap a few pictures of all of the treats the ravenous hoards of sweet-toothed folks, including me, would shortly devour.

Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Here’s the honorees assembled in a calm moment just before the dessert-tasting portion of the evening kicked off.  E. Guittard and Kitchen Aid were event sponsors and presented the honorees with products from their collections for them to use in their own kitchens.  Congratulations to all the chefs!  Here’s a look at their creations that we sampled yesterday evening:

Angela Pinkerton (back row, far left) – Eleven Madison Park, New York, NY

Lavender Meringue with Cocoa Sorbet and Orange

This dessert had a mixture of tastes and textures, chocolatey crumbs, chewy brownie bits, and even a delicate cream that was revealed when breaking through the meringue’s shell.

Craig Harzewski (back row, second from left) – NAHA, Chicago, IL

This Milk Chocolate Complexite, Milk Chocolate Beignets, Pinot Noir, & Cocoa was as rich and decadent as the title sounds.  After making my rounds of the other chefs’ offerings it was, sadly, too much for me to finish it all.  Today, I regretted that I couldn’t have taken it home with me to have as a mid-afternoon snack.

Sandro Micheli (back row, third from left) – Daniel, New York, NY

Almond Daquoise, Milk Chocolate Parfait, Salted Caramel Tuile

This dessert hit all the right flavor notes: creamy chocolate, chocolate cake, salty and crunchy caramel.  These went flying off of the table as soon as they were laid out.  It took me some time to get my hands on one of these plates, they were so popular.

Marc Aumont (back row, third from right) – The Modern, New York, NY

Prep time

I didn’t get to catch a photo of this chef preparing the desserts, but here is an overall shot of what the kitchen looked like before the event really got started.  Students from the Institute of Culinary Education (where the event was held) had a chance to work side-by-side with these chefs and their staffs to prepare everything for the evening.  The cakepops had a substantial amount of dark, rich chocolate and crunchy pieces on the outside which held a sweet center.  I went back for seconds on those.

Damien Herrgott (back row, second from right) – Bosie Tea Parlor, New York, NY

Macarons

Strawberry Shortcake Profiterole and Matcha Tea Eclair

Chai-infused Chocolate Mousse Tarts

I confess, I had almost one of everything these pastries looked so delicious.  Fortunately, I was in good company, as a few other folks I knew at the event were just as eager to taste all of them, too.  The Caramel Macaron in the bottom row was an incredible combination of toothsome shell and full burst of butterscotch-like flavor in the interior.  I had to restrain myself from sampling another one.  The Strawberry Shortcake also drew many admirers among our group.  Inside of it was a delicate, camomile-scented cream that made the berries seem even sweeter.

Jean-Marie Auboine (back row, far right) – Jean-Marie Auboine Chocolatier, Las Vegas, NV

Jean-Marie Auboine chocolates

These beautiful chocolates were really hard to resist, but I refrained from helping myself to them.  I couldn’t see how to choose just one sample to try.  So much chocolate, so little time.

Nathaniel Reid (front row, far left) – Norman Love Confections, Naples, FL

Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Caramel

For this selection, I’m skipping uploading a photo I took of the chef talking during the event in order to focus your attention on the beauty and detail of his work.  My breath was really taken away at how lovely all of these creations were when put on display.  In talking to one of his staff, I found out that they had brought these up partially prepared and then had finished them on site before the event started.  Breaking through the raspberry caramel revealed a heart of rich, smooth chocolate mousse surrounded by cake that sat on a very thin praline-tasting wafer.  They had captured some of my favorite flavor combinations in a gorgeous package.

Sally Camacho (front row, second from left) – WP24, Los Angeles, CA

Savory Pork Bun

Verrine Acrylic Container and Sorbet

You’re probably thinking, “Pork Bun?  Has she lost her mind?”  Actually, Chef Camacho’s choice of a savory tidbit to tide us over while she and her team put the finishing dishes on her incredibly intricate dessert was a brilliant idea.  After several sweets, my palate needed a little salty contrast. Then, I was more than ready to dig into the container that had a little of everything going on inside of it: mango curd, crumbles, toffee bits, caramel, chocolate curls, sorbet, and a sprig of edible flowers. I would love to see this dessert presented on a plate at a restaurant, as I think that might have won over some of the attendees who didn’t find this combination to be as amazing as I did.

Christina Tosi (front row, second from right) – Momofuku Milk Bar, New York, NY

Chocolate Chip Cake Truffles

Pretzel Cake Truffle

These bite-sized nibbles had a wonderful balance of salty and sweet, crunchy and chewy.  Passionfruit brightened up the dense chocolate chip cake interior while the exterior of pretzels gave additional depth to the truffle filled with pretzel cake crumbs, I started my evening with these sweets and could have gone back for at least another round, except that they’d all disappeared by the time I got back to this table.

Chris Hanmer (front row, far right) – The School of Pastry Design, Las Vegas, NV

This unusual dessert of Pineapple Confit Lime, Passion, and Mango Cremeux and Lime-Coconut Crème was light and refreshing and was a welcome flavor and textural contrast from the other desserts I had eaten up until that stage in the evening.  The stopper was meant to be squeezed over the coconut crème.  Perhaps this was a touch gimicky, but it was definitely a conversation starter and allowed more of the delicious sweet-tart, tropical fruit flavors to be carried throughout the dish.

I would be completely neglectful if I didn’t also mention the Dessert Professional Magazine Hall of Fame honoree Marcel Desaulniers, author of many books on dessert and food, not least of which is the one in the above photo.  Chef Desaulniers was for many years the owner and chef of The Trellis in Williamsburg, Virginia, where my alma mater is located.  Congratulations to Chef Desaulniers on this honor!  I’ve enjoyed many evening meals and spontaneous brunch outings to The Trellis.  His fabulous chocolate desserts have always been a special treat (my favorites are For Chocolate Lovers Only and the White Chocolate Balloons), and a trip to the restaurant for chocolate and champagne was one of the ways my college roommate and I celebrated our 21st birthdays.

Thanks again, to Ruskin International for the invitation to participate in this event.  For more photos of the desserts and the chefs, also check out Serious Eats, Dessert Buzz and Me So Hungry.

Buon appetito!