Wendy has spent the past 10 years working with chocolate. She started her company (Desire Chocolates) while in school in Calgary to basically fund going to culinary school, (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology). She then went on to pastry making, where she gained experience with the Belvedere (a small fine dining restaurant), the famed Calgary Petroleum Club, and at Catch, as one of the opening team members with Michael Noble. Six years later, a move to Vancouver would find Wendy wearing the Top Toque as Executive Pastry Chef at The Lazy Gourmet. She then joined Lumiere Restaurant as the Chef Patisserie and has been instrumental in the direction of the dessert program along with Chef de Cuisine, Dale MacKay. Over the years, Wendy has developed and honed her skills in the pastry arts and participated in several competitions, winning the 2006 Gold Medal at the BC Chef’s Association Salon du Chocolat in the plate dessert category. She’s passionate about chocolate and enjoys pairing coffee with dessert.
What is your favorite dessert using Tea?
I have 2 two favorites and they are:
1) “Vanilla Rooibos Granite” as a palate cleanser with a fruit salad.
2) “Early Grey and Chocolate” (64% Manjari from Valrhona) prepared with tea (Bergamot Infusion from T)
What is your favorite dessert using Coffee?
“Cafe Croustillant” – Hazelnut Daquoise with coffee infused crispy praline and salt crusted caramel and a thin layer of chocolate on top served with a white coffee ice cream and chocolate caramel espresso bean on top.
What dessert can be made in under 30 minutes?
I have a couple of suggestions, the first would be a “Chocolate Mousse” made with two parts whipped cream to one part chocolate. The second would be a “Chocolate Soufflé” prepared in advance and baked for 15 minutes.
What do you consider to be the five must have ingredients in your pantry?
Organic sugar, really good chocolate (Michel Cluizel and Valrhona are favorites), organic butter (farm house), salt and vanilla.
What tips do you have for home cooks for making splendid desserts?
Be patient, follow the recipe to a T, do a trial in advance when preparing for a party.
Finally, what advice would you give to any aspiring pastry chef?
Find somebody whose desserts you really like and go and work for them, even for free!
Where have you worked professionally as a pastry chef?
I worked at The Lazy Gourmet as Executive Pasty Chef and then joined Lumiere as their Pastry Chef and have been there ever since.
Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
Otto de Woog (Calgary at the Petroleum club). Learned perfection and techinique.
Mark Andre Choquette (used to be chef de cuisine at Lumiere in Vancouver). Learned Finesse!
What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
Be prepared to work really hard and long hours and leave your ego at the door.
Where do like to go for culinary travel? Why?
I love going to Paris, France and visiting the Rhone Valley. One of the places that I have visited was Montelimar which is known as the city of nougat. The trip to Montelimar inspired my “Nougat de Kitsilano” that includes pistachios, cranberries and rose petals.
What are your favorite restaurants off-the-beaten-path in your city?
Salsa & Agave in Yaletown – you must try the Tortilla soup
Rangoli in the South Granville area
Hapa Izakaya in Kitsilano
What is your philosophy on food and dining?
Desserts are an extension of the dining experience. They should not be too sweet, use sugar as a seasoning, and incorporate whatever is in season: fresh, local, organic when possible. Above all, respect the classics (techniques).
Which person in history would you most like to cook for?
James Barber (when I finished culinary school in Calgary, I asked him what do you think about the food scene in Vancouver, and he said go west and you must go to Vancouver and I did).
If you weren’t a pastry chef what do you think you’d be doing?
Design – I went to art school before cooking school.
Do you have any quick recipes you can share?
Coffee & Cardamom Caramel
200 grams Butter
128 grams Crème
4 grams Maldon Salt
250 grams of Sugar
40 grams Glucose
85 grams Water
45 grams of Coffee Beans – chopped
5 grams Whole Cardamom Pods – smashed lightly
1) Boil crème, butter and salt. Set aside.
2) Cook sugar, glucose and water till it becomes a dark caramel, add coffee and cardamom and finish with hot crème and cook and strain to fill the pan, 8”X8”. Cool (4 hours) cut and then wrap into candies. Keeps in the fridge (best up to 1 month). Makes approximately 60 pieces.
Variations to this recipe can be done such as infuse tea into the crème such as chai or toasted nuts or dried figs.
By: Richard Wolak
Reprinted from TheCafeGuide.com