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Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

Karen DeMasco of Locanda Verde Cranberry Spiced griddle cake with Mascarpone Gelato

We’re big fans of Karen DeMasco’s pastry here at DessertBuzz.  Her desserts are always interesting and always delicious.  From fancied-up mini-rhubarb pies to lemon tarts–we dig them all.

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Eric Wolitzky's Bundt Cake at the New York Chocolate show

Last week at the New York Chocolate Show DessertBuzz caught up with Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant and pasty chef Eric Wolitzsky for a follow-up interview.  He was in the main kitchen theater about to make a chocolate gingerbread bundt cake for a standing-room-only crowd.

DessertBuzz: The last time we spoke I never even asked you how you became a pastry chef.

Eric Wolitzky: I was actually in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and after that, after I escaped, I decided, I had to embrace what was in my heart so I enrolled in the French Culinary Institute.  That’s basically, how I became a baker. (more…)

Zac Young showed attendees of the New York Chocolate Show how to make his Oreo dessert

Top Chef: Just Desserts’ Zac Young sat down with DessertBuzz at the New York Chocolate Show after just missing the final three last week.

DessertBuzz: So you have to be  one of the contenders for fan favorite and the $10,000 that comes with it.

Zac Young: I don’t think I am!

DB: Come on, who else would they vote for?

Zac Young of Top Chef: Just Desserts and Flex Mussels

ZY: Yigit!  He takes his shirt off!  Nobody wants to see me with my shirt off!

DB: Don’t be so sure.

ZY: There are a lot of great people on the show who could win it.  I voted for Eric for fan favorite actually.

DB: He really came off as being friends with everyone.

ZY: Eric also had a great progression too.   In his last episode, when he came back and he was like “I’m a chef! I’m a chef!” – I was watching that episode and I was crying all over again – Eric just has the biggest heart in the world.

DB: Were you happy with your TCJD outing?  Would you come back for the All Stars or something else if they invited you?

Yigit with his shirt on

ZY: I would definitely do it again knowing what I know now.

DB: For example, let’s say in January they say they are going to do another show– what would you do differently to prepare?

ZY: I would start memorizing my recipes now!  And maybe brush up on my cakes! [loud laghter].

DB: So there’s this big practical element to the competition, memorizing recipes, that most viewers probably never think about?

The non-chocolate version of Zac's dress.

ZY: Yeah, my strategy going on the show  was to memorize a lot of  bases.  So I had a base mousse, a base ice cream a couple of base cake recipes and then I just kind of flavored them all as I went along.

DB: Do you think the TCJD experience added to you as a chef or as a person?

ZY: Oh definitely, everyone had so many different styles – and we  did so many different things.  I picked up tricks and learned from every single contestant, I even picked up some stuff from Seth.

DB: Can we expect to see some of this new stuff on the menu at Flex Mussels?

ZY: Yes of course!

DB: Are a lot of people stoping by at Flex Mussels to meet you?

ZY: People are stopping by! They’re stopping me on the street, talking to me during dinner!  It’s weird man!   I mean, I cook!  As I said in my extended exit interview, it’s nice to know that people like me and that I can cook.  Going into the show I wasn’t sure if I had gotten to where I am because of my personality or because I’m good at networking or becasue I actually had something to back it up.  And I think the result of the show has shown that I can cook.  I think initially the other contestants thought “he’s just here for his personality” then after the first elimination where I was in top three, people said “crap, he can cook too!”

DB: What’s next for Zac Young–anything new in the works?

ZY: The next step is a donut shop.  We are opening a donut shop as part of the Flex Mussells franchise.  There will be more on that soon.

DB: Erik said he was rooting for Morgan.  Who are you rooting for in the final?

ZY: I’m rooting for Yigit.  My brother.

DB: Well, best of luck with the fan favorite–

ZY: - It’s being announced on my birthday!

DB: Wow, that’s pressure.

ZY: I know.  It’s really the only thing I want for my birthday – maybe that and a pony.

Follow Zac on Twitter.

Zac Young is the Executive Pastry Chef at Flex Mussels.  Go here for Zac’s first DessertBuzz  interview.

Fabio Viviani’s take: Part I is here.  Part II is here.  Part III is here.

Go here for an interview with contestant Eric Wolitzky from New York’s Baked bakery.

Go here for an interview with Dannielle Kyrillos.

For a recap of episode 9 go here.

For a recap of episode 8 go here.

For a recap of episode 7 go here.

For a recap of  episode 6 go here.

For a recap of episode 5 go here.

For a recap of episode 4 go here.

For a recap of episode 3 go here.

For a recap of episode 2 go here.

For a recap of episode 1 go here.

Go here for a look at Johnny Iuzzini.

Official Bravo Bios for the judges: Johnny Iuzzuni – Executive Pastry Chef Jean Georges, Hubert Keller – Owner/Chef Fleur De Lys, Gail Simmons – Food and Wine Magazine, Dannielle Kyrillos – Daily Candy

Go here for the DessertBuzz Top Chef: Just Desserts preview page.

Top Chef: Just Desserts interview Judge Dannielle Kyrillos

Posted by Niko on October 18th, 2010

Dannielle Kyrillos top chef just desserts judge

Compared to Johnny Iuzzini, Hubert Keller and Gail Simmons, fourth judge Danielle Kyrillos might seem a little under the radar.  In fact she’s no dessert newbie–she’s been covering the Aspen Food and Wine Festival and writing about sweets for Daily Candy for years. After reading some of her New York Dessert recommendations in Daily Candy I decided that she  had the requisite skills to earn the official DessertBuzz Seal of Approval.

DessertBuzz: You have kind of a dream job, judging desserts made by some of the best up-and-coming chefs in the US.  How did you score this gig?

Dannielle Kyrillos: I do feel like the luckiest girl in the world!  As an editor at Daily Candy my job was to identify the newest, best and most interesting things, including sweet things and tell our readers about them.  I learned about the opportunity and then spoke to my friend Gail Simmons.   For the audition, they sent a film crew and said “tell us a funny story about dessert”.  I told this [really unfunny] story about my husband and I entertaining.  After the take this 18 year old P.A. says  “yeah, that’s really funny” – I felt like I really bombed it! (more…)

Mr and Mrs Chocolate

Jacques Torres has a lot on his plate right now and I don’t mean just chocolate nibs. A few weeks ago he hosted a party in honor of the opening of Kings of Pastry, the new D.A. Pennabaker documentary about the M.O.F. Pastry Award (go here for the DB review). On the same night, he appeared on the premiere of Top Chef: Just Desserts as a celebrity guest judge.

After exhaustion set in, Team Dessertbuzz cornered Mr. Chocolate, distracted his publicist and made him answer some weighty questions.

Jacques Torres’s achievements in pastry could fill a small book so here’s a short summary:

After achieving just about every distinction for pastry in France in 1986 Torres received the infamous Meilleur Ouvrier de France (M.O.F) medal.  Later Torres worked at Le Cirque before slowly shifting gears to pursue chocolate making.

Now, based in New York, Torres has four chocolate stores here and one in Atlantic City in Harrah’s.   Besides chocolates, Torres is known for his chocolate chip cookies which DessertBuzz ranks #1 in New York.

DessertBuzz: [noticing Torres has a motorcycle helmet in his hands] Did you ride here tonight?

Jacques Torres: Yes, on my motorcycle.  A BMW 650.

DB: Francois Payard rides a 1000cc GSXR Suzuki – is that how all you guys get around?

JT: Well, I traded in my scooter for the bike a little while ago and it is great for moving about New York City.

DB: Been doing any fishing lately?

Jacques Torres Chocolate covered matzo

JT: As a matter of fact I just delivered a striper to Wylie Dufresne [at WD-50]

DB: How does that work?  You just swing by the restaurant and hand the maître d’ a fish?

JT: I catch it then immediately bleed it and get in on ice right away.  Then in a garbage bag and into the top case on my motorcycle – sometimes I have to bend it slightly to make it fit.  Then I drive fast with the fish.

DB: Did you stay [at Wd-50] and eat the fish with them?

JT: No, I don’t know what they did with the fish.   But I really love to eat at Wd-50, love Wylie’s cooking, he is such a talent, he’s doing some great things there.

[Wd-50 said they cooked it up with garlic and served it with a fish chowder]

JT: One time when the fish was too big for the top case I wrapped it in cellophane and draped it across the handlebars and rode to the FCI.

DB: You have a lot of fish stories.

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DessertBuzz Interview: Top Chef All-Star Fabio Viviani

Posted by Niko on October 6th, 2010

After suggesting in a Top Chef: Just Desserts post that Bravo should couple Zac Young and Fabio Viviani for a new show – I received an email from someone claiming to be Viviani.  At first I wasn’t sure it was him, but the subsequent emails I received could only have come from the Top Chef Season Five Fan Favorite.  He agreed to subject himself to some Top Chef and dessert related questions for DessertBuzz:

DessertBuzz: What country has better desserts France or Italy?

Fabio Viviani: What kind of question is this ??? Don’t they teach you at school that France did learn the basic nouvelle cuisine from the knowledge about country rustic Italian food that the Italian Queen in charge at those times in Italy one day all suddenly decided to go at the court of France and get married ??? Italy!!!!!

DB: Favorite Italian and non-Italian dessert?

FV: Gelato and Cheesecake…..

DB: You were voted the fan favorite in season five, did any of the contestants reach out to you for advice on how to charm the judges or viewers?

FV: Yes I was Fan Favorite… I guess America sometimes does make mistake!!  I didn’t talk in particular with anybody in the Top Chef:Just Dessert cast. I think these guys have enough personality to be just fine without my advice- Lol!

DB: Who do you think has had some impressive looking desserts so far?

FV: The winner of the first episode [Heather H] was a nice looking one…. not sure about taste I wasn’t there :-), but I also think that the Disco Dust of the other contestant (Zac Young) was genius. Brilliant and ballsy enough to get him the spotlight, just don’t spit on my dessert! :-)

Zac's Young's Chocolate Fondant with disco-dust

DB: I recall you got pretty stressed out in season 5 but none of you ever had a breakdown like Seth Caro did in episode 2 (the red hots are for my mommy!) What was your reaction to that scene?

FV: I wasn’t too stressed but at a certain point I did tell a judge (I won’t name who) that in case he was persisting in making fun of the fact that I wasn’t understanding/speaking English properly I would’ve waited for him to fall asleep and…(just kidding!)

DB: What chefs are you looking forward to squaring off against in Top Chef: All Stars?

FV: Spike…. he better bring a helmet, Marcel, look forward for that. And myself, I will be the only shadow standing in my own sunshine.

Spike - in Fabio's crosshairs

DB: What restaurants do you like to eat at when you come to New York City and what desserts do you like from those restaurants?

FV: Gramercy Tavern the Tapioca Coconut Pudding [by pastry chef Nancy Olson] is to die for…actually I love dessert but I get bored really fast eating them, that’s why I tend to take BIG bite… lol!

DB: Stephan was the closest thing to a villain in season 5. Who do you think is headed that way on Top Chef:Just desserts? Would it be Morgan?

FV: This guys they need to focus on food and keep their mouth shut, unless they are not blowing disco dust off course, I don’t think that Morgan is a Villain but he may have a good shoot if he keep going like last episode :-)

DB: What dessert should I have at Firenze Osteria NOHO

FV: Limoncello Cheesecake and Caramel Gelato….. but I worn [sic] you, once you have BOTH, you’ll never like any other dessert….. act accordingly!

We’ll be checking back in with Viviani as the season progresses.

Fabio Viviani can be seen December 1 on Top Chef: All Stars.  He is the owner and Executive Chef of Firenze Osteria (NoHo) and Cafe Firenze (Moorpark) both in LA.

Follow Fabio on Twitter http://twitter.com/fabioviviani

Follow DessertBuzz on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dessertbuzz

More Top Chef: Just Desserts coverage on DessertBuzz:

Go here for an interview with contestant Zac Young from New York’s Flex Mussels

Go here for an interview with contestant Eric Wolitzky from New York’s Baked bakery.

For a recap of episode 3 go here.

For a recap of episode 2 go here.

For a recap of episode 1 go here.

Go here for a look at Johnny Iuzzini.

Go here for a closer look at Judge Danielle Kyrillos.

Official Bravo Bios for the judges: Johnny Iuzzuni – Executive Pastry Chef Jean Georges, Hubert Keller – Owner/Chef Fleur De Lys, Gail Simmons – Food and Wine Magazine, Dannielle Kyrillos – Daily Candy

Go here for the DessertBuzz Top Chef: Just Desserts preview page.

Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant interview: Zac Young

Posted by Niko on September 27th, 2010

Zac Young - don't let the bow tie fool you, Zac's got skills

Throughout most of episode 1 of Top Chef: Just Desserts it was difficult to know what to make of contestant Zac Young.  He clearly had one of the strongest and funniest personalities of the new show but what about that giant bow tie and all those zippy one liners- he seemed to be having far too much fun to be a legit pastry chef, let alone a threat to win.  Then he made the top 3 for his Vanilla Bean Cupcake.

Another episode and 10 quotable quotes later, Zac has shown that he has skills in the kitchen (Ho Ho’s w/ Red Hot cream/ Hot Tamale and licorice sauce anyone?) and is also a fan favorite, (see the results of the live in-show poll).

This past Friday (after episode 2 aired) DessertBuzz caught up with telegenic pastry chef to what kind of filling he’s made of.

DessertBuzz: So Last night I had some of the desserts at Flex Mussels [where Zac is executive pastry chef] – the Lemon Meringue Pie in a Glass and four of your signature donuts. – salted caramel, pbj, fluffernutter and chocolate.

Zac Young: That’s sneaky!

DB: How did the lemon meringue dessert come about?

ZY: When I was young,  one memory from Cape Elizabeth, ME was of all the seaside fish shacks.  They always had pies out on the ledges cooling.   The light seafood meals really lent themselves to pies for dessert.   So I wanted to make a lemon meringue pie but since I can’t do anything “by the book” I decided to make it without a crust and in a glass.   I also hate making pie crusts – and tarts!  At Bouchon, I was making crusts for 14 hours a day – so I really developed an aversion to tarts with shells.   Instead, the graham cracker crumble takes the place of the crust.

Zac Young with one of his desserts

DB: Which of your signature dishes at Flex Mussels do New Yorkers seem to respond to? (more…)