Pastry Pioneers

Having mastered dessert, pastry chefs are taking on main courses. Here's how they're making the leap from apple pie to chicken potpie,from lemon tart to lemon pizza.

Pastry chefs used to be the character actors of the culinary world: you might love their work, but you could never remember their names. That's changing. Today, pastry chefs are bona fide celebrities. And, like movie stars who use their power to land directing gigs, some of the best pastry chefs now run their own places or create entire meals, not just desserts. Since they have such a passion for dough, it shows up all over their menus. François Payard of Manhattan's Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro, for instance, adds a flaky phyllo crust to his delicate Parmesan broth with gnocchi. Joanne Chang even named her soon-to-open Boston restaurant Flour. These maverick pastry chefs feel ready to take on new challenges. "In our desserts, we're already putting together components with contrasting flavors and textures," says Elizabeth Falkner of San Francisco's Citizen Cake. For her, creating a pizza that successfully combines asparagus, Gruyère cheese and Meyer lemons requires the same set of skills. Falkner and her peers have one more thing incommon: their food is remarkably light--just try the chicken potpies from Mitchel London of New York City's Mitchel London Foods. After all, even in their new roles, these pastry chefs still want you to save room for dessert.

PUBLISHED April 2000

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