Interview with Kate Zuckerman, Pastry Chef of Chanterelle & Author of Sweet Hands
Formerly the pastry chef at Picholine in New York and San Francisco's much loved Firefly, she is one of the most acclaimed pastry chefs of her generation, having been named one of the ten best pastry chefs in America by Pastry Art & Design in 2005. Zuckerman's desserts, which were described as a "life-changing experience" by The New York Times, have earned her extravagant praise from every major critic in the New York area.
After graduating from Princeton with a degree in cultural anthropology, Zuckerman began her culinary apprenticeship in Boston under Lydia Shire at Biba and Rick Katz at The Bentonwood Bakery. She subsequently worked in the kitchens of top restaurants in San Francisco, Paris and New York.
In 1999 Kate took over the pastry kitchen of New York's Chanterelle and this month she chatted with Jeremy Emmerson...
Can you describe your book?
It is a dessert book for chefs and cooks of every level... Professionals, cooks and amateurs, Sweet Life is filled with simple recipes that can work as stand alone desserts or used be in conjunction with other recipes. Allowing the reader to decide on the challenge; they can keep it simple or go for it!
How long did it take to write and publish?
It took me one year to write the manuscript and from that point another year to get it tested, photographed, printed and on to bookshelves.
You had mentioned in your book you weren't sure if it would work out "this mix of pastry and parenthood". But it has. How do you do it?
It is a constant juggling act. It helps that I start work early, but to be successful it requires organization, planning, asking for help and ensuring that you are keeping both parties balanced.
What do you see as the current trend in pastry?
Food science is the hot topic right now; I was just at a demonstration on Sunday. In pastry, many chefs are looking at new ways to thicken and stabilize recipes, new "scientific" equipment is being utilized as are unconventional flavor elements - smoke for example.
It's not my orientation, I am fascinated with sous vide, cooking proteins in different ways, slow cooking, controlled temperature and pressure cooking. But I equally enjoy using traditional techniques for my desserts.
Why did you become a pastry chef?
I started cooking savory food but became more interested in pastry. It was the aspect of control and the fact that you can prepare many items in advance. I liked the fact that French technique dominated the pastry kitchen, the savory side has so many influences and you can not master them all.
What would you do if you weren't cooking?
Cooking all of these years has really made me start thinking about our food; where it comes from and how much we waste… I think agricultural science would be a great occupation to pursue.
Let's talk favorites.
What is your favorite thing to cook?
Roasting fruit; figs, pears, peaches… roast fruit are delicious, the flavors are enhanced, it's so simple but I love it!
Favorite piece of equipment?
Nothing high tech', just my black steel baking pans. They never warp, conduct heat really well and never stick.
Favorite dessert to eat when you are out?
Yogurt based desserts - great flavor, love the texture. I also enjoy custard based sweets and thin crusted tarts.
Favorite cookbook author?
Maida Heater. This stems back to when I was a kid. I love her books and they have just been republished!
If you're new looking for a new "favorite" cookbook author check out Kate's Sweet Life.
The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle
by Kate Zuckerman, Tina Rupp (Photographer)
List Price $35.00
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