By Dorothy Hernandez, Foodable Contributor
For many savory chefs, pastry is a weak point. Not for Scott Breazeale, a trained pastry chef who is equally skilled with his savory dishes. The executive sous chef at Levy Restaurants, and food and beverage partner at Ford Field in Detroit, had a big year last year. He recently appeared on Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship,” where he battled seven other bakers, making it to the final round, and was nominated for “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the local American Culinary Federation chapter.
The skateboarder and old-school punk rocker took some time out from his busy schedule at Ford Field, where he oversees the hot side of suites and all of the pastry items, to talk about blurring the lines between sweet and savory, his plans for 2016, and how his day job at the 65,000-seat home of the Detroit Lions is easier than competing on TV.
Foodable: You went to school for pastry but then started branching out into savory. When and why did that transition take place?
Scott Breazeale: In 1999, I was working as the pastry chef at an Italian restaurant in Plymouth, Michigan, La Bistecca, when…the chef also needed someone to do salads and cold apps. I worked there for many years, and as cooks and chefs came and went, I picked up more and more savory cooking. One night, a line cook didn't show up so I hopped on the line. Not long after, I was working the line full time, and not long after that I was the sous chef. A couple of years later, I was the executive chef.
Foodable: You are able to do savory and pastry. In the Food Network championship, you combined a savory element (peppercorns and grapefruit curd filling) into your dessert. How does your pastry background play into your savory dishes and vice versa? That must make for some interesting flavor combinations and profiles.
SB: When I started working the hot line, I started to think a little different about pastry. I could see using pastry technique in savory applications. Once that happened, the flood gates opened and no idea was too far out of bounds. I remember the first time I did a chocolate and Szechuan peppercorn creme brûlée people were freaking out. Now chocolate and chili is a commonplace flavor pairing. When I was working at Novi Chophouse, I was crossing flavor boundaries also. We were doing a duck dish and I was making root beer flavored marshmallows as a garnish. We also did a peach tart where I did a fresh peach tart with scratch ice cream and roasted beet ganache. I am constantly trying to blur the lines between sweet and savory and vise versa. I want people to scratch their heads and think, "Huh, I would not have thought of that."
Foodable: How did the opportunity to participate in the Halloween Baking Championship come up?
SB: I got the chance to be on Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship” because a friend recommended me to a casting friend of hers. It was a lot of work to get on the show. Once I met the cast and people involved, it was an amazing experience. It was really nerve-racking and exciting at the same time. I am very grateful to have been chosen and for my employer to let me go away for 10 days.
Foodable: What was that experience like? How different is it than working in the kitchen feeding thousands of fans on game day or doing a couple hundred covers a night at the restaurant? Is it easier? Is it harder?
SB: The show was very intense and draining. We didn't know what was going to be thrown at us and then after we were done, we had to be judged. This differs from my everyday because, for one, I know what people are going to eat and have time to think about the prep and execution of the food. On the show, we had no idea what we were going to make and we were put on a very tight time restraint. Then there are the professional judges. Not knowing how they are going to react to your work was gut-wrenching. My day job is much less stressful and predictable.
Foodable: You made it to the final round with a zombie creation and you stepped up the gore game but fell just a bit short with the haunted house cake. What was going through your mind at that time? In a Detroit Free Press article, you said it was stressful to do the cake in just five hours. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and how it was stressful and how you came up with the concept?
SB: Yeah, I wanted to kick up the gore because the judges (Ron Ben-Israel) really wanted to see more. The timeframe they gave us to do the cake was very tight. Especially since they wanted a tiered cake that was haunted house themed. I’m a technique and flavor guy, not an airbrush and fondant guy. I wanted the cake to be really flavorful, clean and neat with a whimsical feel. I felt I delivered. They were looking for more theatrical.
Foodable: You were also nominated for “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the local ACF chapter Michigan Chefs de Cuisine. What did that mean to you as a chef? What did you have to do to compete? Even though you didn't get the title ultimately, how did this experience help you in your culinary career?
SB: I was really honored and taken back by the “Pastry Chef of the Year” nomination. I thought it was a nice nod to all the hard work I put into my job and career on a daily basis. I thought it was a lot of fun that you now have to compete for the title. I think it's more legitimate that way. One of the chefs I went against is a great friend and we competed right next to each other at the same time. On that day, we both put up really nice desserts (but) the judges picked his that day. The experience was again really cool and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it.
Foodable: 2015 was a big year for you. What's next in 2016?
SB: 2016? I am hoping to be nominated again and hopefully bring home the win. I also am looking at becoming certified as an Executive Pastry Chef. Maybe get on another cooking show, “Chopped?” “Top Chef?” I'm going to keep pushing myself to learn more and grow as a culinarian. I’ve got a few pop-ups planned and get ready for a winning season with the Detroit Lions.