It takes a bit of magic—and a lot of hard work—to be a great pastry chef. So who are the crème de la crème in the Sacramento region? Here are several who take the art of dessert making to the next level.
Grange’s Elaine Baker carefully
places hazelnut brittle on a slice of Point Reyes blue cheesecake with fresh grapes and Concord grape-port sauce.Photo of Elaine Baker: By Gabriel Teague / Photo of Edward Martinez: By Roy Wilcox
Grange Restaurant & Bar, Sacramento Résumé highlights: Culinary Institute of America grad; worked for renowned wedding cake designer Condra Easley Her style: Comforting yet cutting edge. “Her desserts evoke childhood memories at times but show the sophistication and refinement that your mother did not have when serving you dessert when you were a child,” says Grange exec chef Michael Tuohy. Signature dessert: Valrhona Chocolate & Caramel Decadence cake with peanut butter anglaise, caramelized peanuts and Maldon sea salt.
Hawks Restaurant, Granite Bay Résumé highlights: Stints at Napa Valley’s acclaimed Bistro Jeanty and wedding-cake company Perfect Endings (whose cupcakes were listed among Oprah’s “favorite things”) His style: The savory factor. “Whether he knows it or not, I think that’s become his style,” says co-owner/executive chef Molly Hawks. Example: peanut brittle laced with chipotle powder. Another twist: Says Hawks: “He’s a big guy, such a guy’s guy, and to see him come up with all these cute little cookies and delicate desserts . . . I love that juxtaposition.”
The Firehouse Restaurant, Old Sacramento Résumé highlights: Last stop: Fairmont hotel in Newport Beach Her style: The unexpected touch. “Some people make perfect mousses and their chocolate work is impeccable, but they don’t have that spark of ingenuity,” says Firehouse executive chef Deneb Williams. “Her desserts are a wonderful amalgamation of comfort desserts with an added texture or interesting flavor.” Example: raspberry cheesecake with a lemon verbena tarragon fruit compote. Why Williams hired her: Energy and creativity. Says Williams: “When she interviewed for the job, I could tell she was really driven and passionate about her career.”
The Waterboy, Sacramento Résumé highlights: “She’s learned pretty much on the job, which I personally believe is some of the best training you can get,” says Waterboy chef/owner Rick Mahan, who inherited Stewart 14 years ago and has held on tight. (Stewart worked at Americo’s, The Waterboy’s predecessor at 2000 Capitol Ave.) Her style: Homespun and heartfelt. “Edie has a very sensible nature, and so do her desserts,” says Mahan. “We like simple things that taste good, and that’s the easiest way I can explain it.” Signature dessert: Apple crostada