Pastry Chefs Talk Trends, Nostalgia, and Valentine’s Day Prep

Valentine’s Day is the second busiest day of the year for restaurants. It’s a day for diners to treat themselves, and what better way to do so than with something delectable and sweet to finish off the meal?

With that in mind, has your restaurant started prepping a dessert menu that is impossible to resist this romantic holiday? To spark more inspiration, Foodable sat down with two renowned pastry chefs to get the scoop on ingredients, trends, and how they’re are preparing for the sweetest day of the year.

Meet the Men Behind the Pastry

Josh Gripper | Photo Credit: Noah Fecks

Josh Gripper | Photo Credit: Noah Fecks

Josh Gripper, the executive pastry chef at the W South Beach Hotel, continues to make a sugary splash with his dazzling confections at The Dutch. Gripper got his start at Butter Restaurant in NYC and went onto the nearby Café Boulud, where he met Andrew Carmellini. After spending time in France, where he worked at Provence’s famed Michelin two-star restaurant L’Oustau de Baumaniere, he returned to his roots in New York serving as the pastry chef for Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne. Now, he works alongside Carmellini at The Dutch’s Miami outpost.

 
Jeremy Fogg | Photo courtesy of Emeril's

Jeremy Fogg | Photo courtesy of Emeril's

Jeremy Fogg is the pastry chef responsible for the decadent dessert program at New Orleans restaurant, Emeril’s. An Orlando native, Fogg’s passion for pastry began at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. After graduating, he worked at popular local hotels, including the Hilton Orlando, where he oversaw the dessert department for four of the hotel’s restaurants. On the side, he also operated his own private catering company for wedding cakes and desserts. In 2013, Fogg relocated to New Orleans to join the Emeril’s team, and in 2014, he was promoted to pastry chef. 

Jeremy Fogg is the pastry chef responsible for the decadent dessert program at New Orleans restaurant, Emeril’s. An Orlando native, Fogg’s passion for pastry began at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. After graduating, he worked at popular local hotels, including the Hilton Orlando, where he oversaw the dessert department for four of the hotel’s restaurants. On the side, he also operated his own private catering company for wedding cakes and desserts. In 2013, Fogg relocated to New Orleans to join the Emeril’s team, and in 2014, he was promoted to pastry chef. 

Sweet Talk

Foodable: What are your favorite ingredients to work with?

Josh Gripper: I love working with chocolate. It is a complex and versatile ingredient. It can be shaped into intricate garnishes and sculptures. It can also be paired with fruits, and get baked into soufflés. The options are only limited by the imagination.

Jeremy Fogg: Chocolate is definitely at the top of the list. The many ways it can be used is particularly appealing to me. I also enjoy working with fresh fruits—using them to make anything from sauces to sorbets to candied fruit garnishes.

Foodable: What are some of your fan-favorite desserts?

JG: NY cheesecake

JF: The S'mores Ice Cream Sandwich has been a big hit amongst diners. We take our house-made toasted marshmallow ice cream and sandwich it between two layers of graham cracker cake and dark chocolate ganache, then serve it with more toasted marshmallows and a Fireball Whisky sauce. The Malted Chocolate Doberge Cake, served with a shot of house-made chocolate soda, has been a large seller as well. And for Mardi Gras season, the King Cake Monkey Bread steals the spotlight. They're baked-to-order and served with a variety of New Orleans-inspired sauces.

Foodable: What are diners craving today in terms of sweets and desserts?

JG: I think diners today are looking for desserts that remind them of their childhood, but have evolved to match the sophistication of an adult palate. You see the incorporation of sugary cereals and twists on snacks like candy bars and Twinkies.

JF: Diners are definitely looking for things that are new and a little different, but I've found that if a dessert has something familiar as its starting point, the diners' response is much greater. I've also noticed that the majority of our diners' palates are leaning toward desserts that are not overly sweet.

 
 

Foodable: What culinary dessert trends are inspiring some of your recent dessert dishes?

JG: I don’t like to get caught up in trends but I do believe it is important to stay current, so you don’t get stuck in the past or have an outdated approach. But the trend that is currently having an impact on my plating is the push for simplicity and bold flavor. Focusing on great ingredients and not overcomplicating the food.

JF: A trend that I always stick to is reinterpreting classic desserts. The S'mores Ice Cream Sandwich is a great example of this, changing things up a bit with the classic s'more. Adding savory elements to dishes is also a favorite of mine. There's bacon on the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, and I also use my grandmother's Sour Cream Pound Cake recipe at the restaurant and grill the slices to add a bit of a smokey/char flavor to them. And, as always at Emeril's, we locally source seasonal produce for menu items every day.

Foodable: What are some tips to create a particularly enticing dessert menu for Valentine's day?

JG: The key is to remember what Valentine’s Day is about — two people sharing their experiences. A Valentine’s Day dessert should embrace sharing. I usually create desserts with chocolate elements because chocolate is a central theme for the day. Most important, the dessert should be light. You don’t want people to feel uncomfortable when they finish the dessert. They have a whole night ahead of them.

JF: Chocolate is definitely the go-to item for most Valentine's Day menus, and I use chocolate in at least one or two desserts myself. I try to mix in some other elements that continue the themes of romance and passion, such as red fruits and spices like cinnamon or cayenne. And since most chocolate desserts tend to be rich and heavy, I'll add something like a sorbet or shaved ice to the dish to lighten it up. A champagne and strawberry shaved ice with a rich chocolate mousse is a great balance of richness, flavor, and romance. For most people, Valentine's Day is a very special occasion and I like to stick to desserts that have an elegance and decadence to them to reflect the mood of the evening.