We caught up with Keystone’s favorite Pastry Chef to talk his favorite moments from Taste of Keystone and the inspiration behind his ‘World Famous’ dessert.
As a kid, what was it like getting up at 2am to make pastries for your family’s bakery?
I thought it was FUN! I was young and didn’t know any better. Also, I got to do something with my Dad, so to me it was similar to going fishing or to a Red Sox game with him. I never thought it was “work”.
What brought you to what you call “paradise” at Keystone?
I had been a Pastry Chef in big hotels in Dallas, Denver, and San Jose, and I had resigned myself to the reality that for me to work in a world class operation it was more than likely going to have to be a large city and I am no “city boy”. I grew up in a small village near Hyannis, Massachusetts called Cummaquid with a population of 60 people. Joining the remarkably talented culinary team at Keystone was a dream come true! I get to live in the gorgeous Colorado Rockies and showcase my pastry talents. That makes it “paradise” for me!
What is your favorite season here at the Resort?
WOW! That is actually an impossible question for me to answer because they are all sensational for various reasons, each one is spectacular. But if you made me choose…FALL! It is colorful beyond belief and it is accompanied by PUMPKIN PIE!
What do you love about the Taste of Keystone?
I love that the event offers our guests to experience all of the incredible culinary talent we have throughout this resort at one visit. We have amazing Chefs here and I want the whole world to know it!
What gave you the idea for your “World Famous White Chocolate Spaghetti”?
While I was the executive pastry chef at the Fairmont Hotel in Denver, an up and coming young Chef named Jimmy Schmidt from Detroit opened a restaurant in the Tivoli building called the Rattlesnake Club. It was getting all the top previews and was the talk of Denver. I was 25 years old and had NO money as my first child Jessica had just come into the world. But I scrimped and saved so I could dine there and the dessert was “white chocolate ravioli with hazelnut gianduja sauce”. CRAZY!!! A dessert that looked like entrée food! I was inspired to borrow (borrow is a nice word for steal) that idea and make it better!
Did you anticipate it being so popular with guests?
Never in a million years! I waited until I was in San Jose and I unveiled my modified creation in The San Jose Fairmont’s 5 star restaurant La Saisons. I called it the Grand Illusion. The menu only listed the ingredients: chocolate genoise, white chocolate mousse, strawberry compote, and Grand Marnier chocolate mousse truffles. This restaurant served every course “under dome” so plates would be set in front of guests and then the servers would remove the domes simultaneously. When the guest would look at the plate there was an expression of total confusion on people’s faces. They would tell the server “I didn’t order this” and the server would politely explain that indeed they had. It quickly became all the rage and diners would bring their friends, family, coworkers etc. to the restaurant for dinner for the sole reason to have them order the Grand Illusion so they could see the look on their faces! On many occasions I stood in the waiter station to witness this myself. It was AWESOME!
What’s your favorite moment/memory from your years at Taste of Keystone?
There are tons of them but this one sticks in my memory for ever. After doing the spaghetti dessert for 5 or 6 years in a row I decided to retire it and I did a “spoof” dessert on all the most recent dessert trends at that time. The dessert was a “maple glazed grilled donut with sea salt caramel gelato, chocolate fudge sauce, candied bacon sprinkles, and garnished with a chocolate dipped potato chip”. The entire afternoon I was face to face with disappointed guests who had come to the Taste of Keystone just for the white chocolate spaghetti. They came from long distances and brought friends for a “big surprise” only to be completely bummed out. Even though the donut was getting high praise it just wasn’t what they expected. I felt horrible that I had caused so many guests to be disappointed. At one point a woman pulled me to the side of my booth and expressed her disappointment for over 10 minutes! Along came her husband with a glass of red wine. He handed it to her saying “Honey, calm down, have some wine, and for God’s sake stop yelling at the Chef!” It was priceless!