Your cookbooks are on baking and desserts; were you always interested in baking?
Yes, I was always drawn to the precision of baking. I’m a planner, and I like to have everything worked out before I start a project. I don’t do as well on the fly. I have the classic traits of a pastry chef, not of a freewheeling, improvisational chef, though I do love to cook savory food, too. After cooking school in Paris, my first job was as a cook on a barge traveling the canal in Burgundy. I had to cook lunch and dinner for 30 people six days a week. I also had to do all the shopping. It was trial by fire, so I learned to cook the hard way. But I was always much more interested in making a splash with the dessert than with the main course. I eventually became a pastry chef, which was a better choice for me.
Was food/baking an important part of your childhood/growing up?
Yes—I loved to bake with my Mom, who always encouraged me (and cleaned up after my kitchen messes). I’d come home from school and make brownies or a cake, and the family would eat it for dessert at dinner.
You were a food stylist: how does that help you in the development of a new recipe?
It makes me very conscious of the finished look of a cake or dessert during the development process. Garnish shouldn’t be an after-thought, it should be integrated into the recipe.
What are 2 or 3 of your favorite dessert/cake recipes to prepare for family and friends?
I like to make a simple cheesecake with gorgeous strawberries or raspberries on top, brushed with a little red currant or strawberry jelly. I also love to make crème brulee, because you can make it up to 2 days ahead and then caramelize the top a minute. It’s so simple, but people go nuts for it.
What is your personal favorite dessert/cake?
I love chocolate, so I’d have to say my Brooklyn Blackout Cake. It’s really moist and gooey and delicious. And chocolaty.
What important tips can you share with the home baker? Or a "Kitchen Tip or Secret"?
The most important tip I have is to read a recipe through before you do anything. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises (i.e., ‘Oh, I need a blow torch for this recipe?’). Another simple tip is when you crack an egg, don’t do it against the side of the bowl. Do it against a flat surface, such as a counter. This way there’s less chance of getting eggshell in the egg.
Is there a new cookbook planned?
Yes, I am negotiating a deal on a new book now. All I can say is that it will be a dessert cookbook (big surprise, I know).
How about sharing a little known fact about yourself!
I am a certified tennis nut, and I play four times a week.