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?
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.
JT: When I caught two very large (15-18lb) Stripers, I brought them to DBGB and they put them on the menu: “Striped bass caught by Jacques Torres”.
DB: You really like fishing.
JT: Yes, I go as often as I can.
DB: Do you like fishing better than Chocolate? What’s the hierarchy of your interests then?
JT: The fishing is first, then the chocolate.
DB: What about after that?
JT: Sex is maybe just behind the fishing. Hopefully my wife will not read this.
DB: You’re in the movie [Kings of Pastry] you even have some lines.
JT: [getting very excited now] Yes, I’m in the movie! You just see me a couple of times, but I am in there!
DB: How was your M.O.F. compared to the one shown in the Kings Of Pastry?
JT: [turning very serious now] It was all very emotional. I mean, no two competitions are the same – they are in different years and are like different sports – it’s hard to compare except that they are emotional, difficult and draining. I was not going to see the film, but I did, and I will only see it once [he makes a decisive hand gesture]. I saw it, it was hard to watch, I do not need to see it again – it brings back all the difficulty and that time which is in the past. Now we move forward.
DB: Would you ever help train someone for the M.O.F. like Chef Sebastien Canonne did in the movie?
JT: You know I’m really past the point of pastry being my main focus. I am now in the third stage of my career. The first was the work in France that culminated in the M.O.F. (Torres received his M.O.F. at the age of 26 the youngest ever to pass the MOF and in his first attempt). The second was to make it in the US – and 12 years later (after working for Le Cirque, becoming Dean of Pastry Studies at the FCI, etc. -Ed) the third goal is to run a successful business here and so far I love running the chocolate business, I really do.
DB: On Top Chef: Just Desserts you said you never tried a whoopie pie before. You’ve really been in New York City this long and never tasted one?
JT: No! There are so many things I have never tried. People used to ask me how to make scones or cheesecake. No French ever come to the U.S. and know (for example) how to make cheesecake – we learn when we get here!
DB: But you never had to make a whoopie pie for the M.O.F.?
JT: No, they [whoopie pies] are too advanced for us.
DB: Ok it’s your last meal, what do you have for dessert?
JT: This may sound pretentious but one of my favorite things is an apple tart, upside down, glazed well, cooked well, in a classical dessert style served with vanilla ice cream made with real vanilla bean. I would cook it myself because I know the characteristics that I like in this dessert.
Wait is this really my last meal?
DB: Yes, your last meal ever on earth.
JT: Ok, then I have to have sex afterwards – all pastry chefs are obsessed with sex – it’s true! I know them all and it’s true!
More DessertBuzz Interviews:
Fabio Viviani from Top Chef
Zac Young of Top Chef: Just Desserts
Eric Wolitzky from Top Chef: Just Desserts
Short Video Interviews: