As much as we don't like to admit it, when it comes to most things in the culinary world the French do it best.
Yeah, we know; it defeats the whole ethos of American exceptionalism; the idea of the city on the hill and what have you, but, unfortunately, it's true.
Especially when it comes to pastries.
Fortunately, American ingenuity is still a major part of the equation.
This past summer, French-trained, Alaska-native Eric Snow took over as pastry chef at world-renowned Palm Beach French restaurant Cafe Boulud.
We spoke to the Snow, who has worked for famed chefs ranging from Alain Ducasse at the Essex House to Frederic Robert at the Wynn in Las Vegas about his previous posts, Martha Stewart, and his German Shepherds.
Clean Plate Charlie: You just moved down from a stint at the famed Greenbriar in West Virginia. What has the transition been like?
Eric Snow: It's been going well; not too much of an ordeal. The heat wasn't something I was expecting. I arrived in mid-August and it was raining every day. I was like 'Oh, my God' the day I had to move all of my stuff into my place.
What was it like in West Virginia?
It was good. I wasn't in the country that long; I was really used to city life when I got there; so, it was a bit of an adjustment. Ordering and getting things sometimes took a couple weeks. Things were a bit slower. It was more of a 'it happens when it happens' sort of attitude. I think I like the faster pace better; I had been between New York and Vegas for years before that.
The Greenbrier had extensive ties to the government for a long time. What was it like working there?
We had a lot of Congressman and Senators come in. There's a lot of history: the dining room is 100 years old and the grounds are 150 to 200. In 1995 details were released on the bunker, which was basically a fall-out shelter for all of Congress to go to in the event of an emergency. There was always a rotation of food and supplies, but it was top secret; even people on the grounds didn't know what was happening, even though they knew something was going on. You can tour the space no. It's really cool; the walls are so thick and the air is different down there.
You've been doing a lot of traveling between New York and Las Vegas the past few years. Why all the back and forth?
I left New York to open the Wynn in Las Vegas in 2005. In 2008 I went back to New York to reopen the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel. Then I went back to Vegas to work for Alain Ducasse again at miX.
What do you think about Palm Beach so far?
I'm still soaking it all in and figuring it out. There's quite a bit of money and a built-in clientele at the restaurant; a lot of regulars and people have been coming in for a long-time. Most of them know what they want, but so far most of them have been into trying new things.
What do you do when you're not working?
I've been taking the dogs out, going to parks, riding my motorcycles. I've been trying to go to different restaurants and bars each week to find stuff that is different. I love the beach.
Where have you been eating?
I found a great sushi place in Boynton right across from the ocean. I can't remember the name of it, but the chef gets fish right off the pier. I went to Buccan and had a nice experience.
You were on the Martha Stewart Show once. What was that like?
I'm not really into that sort of attention. She came into the Oak Room a couple of times and the owner brought her into the kitchen. I gave her a couple of things to try and she asked me to be on the show. It was fun, but it was a really early day for a two-minute segment. It's not something I look for.
What was Martha like?
She was really nice. You could tell she likes things the way she wants them, which isn't a bad thing. It seems like a really cool place to work.
Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away. How do you celebrate?
My family pretty much does the traditional dinner: fried or baked turkey, stuffing, cranberry, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie.
What are you offering in the restaurant?
I'm doing couple of pumpkin things: white chocolate pumpkin bread pudding and pumpkin spice creme brulee.
Aside from the holiday, what sort of flavors and styles do you like to incorporate into your pastries?
I like to take traditional pastries, like panna cottas, brioches, and tarts, and put my own spin on them. I really like tropical flavors like passionfruit, pineapple, and coconut; so, that's a great thing about being down here. I like to work with the flavors of an area and the seasons. I hear strawberries are coming in February; I'll do something with that.
Cafe Boulud is located at 301 Australian Ave. in Palm Beach. Call 561-655-6060, or visit danielnyc.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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