Pastries may have played second string to entrees in restaurants and resorts across America in the past, but now they are becoming the very reason why patrons go out to dine. Whether a two-bite delight or a sweet culinary experience meant for two (or more), pastries and pastry chefs are making a comeback among diners as an essential part of the overall dining experience. Chef Salvatore Martone, winner of the 2012 3rd Annual StarChefs.com International Pastry Competition and Executive Pastry Chef of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon & Joël Robuchon Restaurant of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, shares with us some of the ingredients that make pastries a fundamental mainstay on restaurant menus, and the ways in which these end-of-meal treats create such a grand impact on the minds and palates of dessert lovers.
Janae Morris (JM): How would you best describe the pastry menu at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon & Joël Robuchon Restaurant of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas?
Salvatore Martone (SM): Whimsical; it is both visually engaging and a great balance of seasonal items that are not often paired.
JM: Outside of what already exists, what is your idea of the perfect pastry?
SM: Not simply a pairing of flavors, it should be something that is interactive, such as pouring a sauce over a sphere, revealing different flavors and textures beneath it.
JM: How many people would you say you serve per day, and what are some of the techniques you’ve put in place to ensure a variety of desserts in a timely manner with delicious results?
SM: We serve approximately 100 in L’Atelier and 50 at Robuchon: we break down the stations into two as all of our desserts are made to order. At Robuchon we have one person who does nothing but soufflés due to the high demand!
JM: In 2013 and so far this year, the industry has been abuzz with stories about the resurrection of the pastry chef. How do you feel about this and how do you imagine the offerings at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon & Joël Robuchon Restaurant help promote this enthusiasm about pastry chefs?
SM: I think with the recent explosion of molecular gastronomy we had a lot of savory chefs moving towards the dessert route, but trends continually change. The one constant is the traditional techniques of working with chocolate and sugar which will always remain the base for a great pastry chef.
JM: In an ever-changing industry where new dessert concepts, flavor combinations and textural innovation are the norm, what kind of different trends would you like to see and/or develop?
SM: In an industry that is full of new creations and concepts, I would love to see trends develop that celebrate innovation that makes sense when applied to principles of pastry, as opposed to innovation that has been applied simply for the sake of doing it.
JM: Both the L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon & Joël Robuchon Restaurants have signature dishes, including La Langoustine and Le Rumsteack en Tartare et ses Frites à L’ancienne (Steak Tartar), respectively. What would be your choice(s) of signature dessert offering(s)?
SM: For L’Atelier, the Chocolate Sensation, a simple yet ingenious dessert which accentuates chocolate with various textures and chocolate variations. For Robuchon, the Sphere de Sucre, a bubble crafted out of sugar, filled retroactively with seasonal fruits and sorbets.
JM: If you could imagine one phrase a guest might possibly think after a pastry experience at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon & Joël Robuchon Restaurant, what would it be?
SM: A stunning visual and epicurean experience.
JM: What drives your culinary passion for pastry and desserts?
SM: I love that my work is never done. One can always do something new, tweak something old; I get to create something every day that will hopefully make someone happy.
JM: What is the main thing you would want people to know about the pastry team at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon & Joël Robuchon Restaurant?
SM: They are a creative team that works well together to finish a wonderful experience. •••