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New York’s Top Pastry Chefs of 2014

lNo one can say that chefs don’t get their fair share of attention nowadays.  Regularly celebrated across a number of mediums — from television shows to magazine spreads to star-studded benefits and festivals — many of them have even become bonafide celebrities.  But there are certain culinary professionals that still seem to spend the better part of their career in the shadows; whom, for whatever reason, have yet to gain the same widespread respect as their savory compadres.  That’s why we’re spotlighting six amazing New York pastry chefs, who’ve made ordering dessert not just an option, but a necessity in 2014.  From Jesus Perea, who’s had everyone’s tongue wagging over his incredible Husk Meringue and ingenious Nixtamalized Carrot Cake at Cosme, to Pam Yung, the other half of the inventive, talented team behind Brooklyn’s Semilla.

1415075804909Jesus Perea, Cosme: You may never have heard the name Jesus Perea (though he’s actually an industry vet, with a resume that includes heavyweights like Del Posto, Le Bernardin, Aquavit, Le Cirque, & Enrique Olvera’s Pujol).  But unless you’ve been living under a rock this year, you’ve definitely heard of, seen, or hopefully tasted his game-changing, ethereal Husk Meringue at Cosme, which shatters on contact to release a silky-smooth stream of corn, cream, and mascarpone mousse.

WhiteStreet_dessert1.0Alexander Zecena, White Street: When you’ve got a respected “celebrity” chef such as Floyd Cardoz heading up the kitchen, it’s easy to dismiss the sweet side of the menu as an afterthought to the main event.  But you’d be remiss to ignore the offerings from New York newbie, Alexander Zecena (whose resume includes L.A.’s Spago and Chicago’s Alinea), that more than hold their own against Cardoz’s exotically flavored fare.  Think Bayleaf Custard with black walnut butter and quince two ways, Chai Milk Chocolate Napoleon with pain d’epices ice cream, and Black Sesame Panna Cotta served with mandarin-yuzu gelee and matcha (green tea) crunch.

i0O1RN5Rsn8YPam Yung, Semilla: At least half of the critical raves surrounding Semilla in Williamsburg are a credit to Pam Yung, who provides the sweet (but not too sweet!) counterpoint to Jose Ramirez-Ruiz’ vegetable-focused dishes.  In addition to providing a truly memorable bread course, such as warm wheels of sourdough served with salted butter and buttermilk, she helps conclude the meal on a high note with at least two ultra-creative desserts, including Fig Leaf Ice Cream, drizzled with a concord grape reduction and scooped on a bed of buckwheat, or Quince Custard wrapped in curls of shaved quince, and sprinkled with almonds and flecks of kaffir lime zest.

PumpkinPie_MeadowSweet_NYCJared Rubin, Meadowsweet: Formerly of Gramercy Tavern, Bouchon Bakery, Battersby and Dover, it’s no wonder Polo Dobkin recruited Jared Rubin for the pastry program at Meadowsweet. Strictly seasonal (just like the Mediterranean-influenced savory dishes), and frequently showcasing herbaceous spirits and liquors, current highlights include a Pear Crisp strewn with polenta crumble and paired with a scoop of amaro gelato, Roasted Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie made with marshmallow, pepitas, and angostura bitters, and a rich slab of Devil’s Food Cake, which owes its striking scarlet hue (not to food coloring) to spiced red wine.

10689597_1345668328782157_8045548708330660263_nJana Kern-Mireles, Almanac: Galen Zamarra has always had an admirable eye for talent when it comes to pastry professionals, hiring on longtime collaborator Maritza Aranda Blum at Mas (Farmhouse) and moving Jana Kern-Mireles from the now-shuttered Mas (la Grillade) to his new, micro-seasonal restaurant, Almanac.  And she’s proven remarkably adept at changing course with every fluctuation of the greenmarket, resulting in seriously au courant items, such as Celery Root-Apple Crisp with walnut-thyme crumble, Yuzu-Lime Tart with mint-pomegranate granita, and Grilled Olive Oil Cake, paired with candied chestnuts, bay leaf ganache, and cara cara sherbet.

iwdILwReNXNYFabian Van Hauske, Contra: Granted, Contra opened back in Fall of 2013.  But in summer of 2014, the idiosyncratic, tasting menu-only restaurant wisely took advantage of their ace in the hole, by further showcasing co-owner Fabian Van Hauske’s wildly original desserts.  Now, instead of simply sampling an item or two at the end of the meal, you can order a three-course, all-dessert tasting menu at the bar, featuring unique creations such as Chamomile Ice Cream with strawberries and olive oil, Toasted Potato Mousse with blueberries, and Buckwheat Custard topped with caramelized grains and yogurt sorbet.






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