5 Women to Admire in Pastry, by Belinda Leong

Belinda Leong © Leela Cyd
By Belinda Leong Posted January 09, 2015

Pastry pro Belinda Leong shares five women you should admire in the pastry world. 

F&W's #FOODWINEWOMEN series celebrates inspiring women in collaboration with Toklas Society. Through Twitter (@foodandwine), we've had over 500 nominations! On Fridays in January, we'll feature picks you should know from across the industry. 

Who: Belinda Leong
What: Pastry Chef
Where: b. patisserie, San Francisco; @b_patisserie 

Here, five women I admire in pastry.

1. Emily Luchetti, Chief Pastry Officer for Big Night Restaurant Group (Park Tavern, Cavalier, Marlowe); San Francisco

Emily Luchetti is one of the pioneers in the pastry world; she defines what great American pastry means. She was the pastry chef of Jeremiah Tower's Stars restaurant, then became the executive pastry chef of Farallon and Waterbar.

I admire Emily because when I first began my pastry career in 1999, she was the pastry chef of Farallon. I really enjoyed her simple, flavorful and elegant style on desserts. Being a native of San Francisco and having a highly recognized pastry chef in my city inspired me to help elevate the standard of pastries and desserts in the Bay Area. Now, knowing her personally, she impresses me even more because she is humble and very supportive of up-and-coming pastry chefs and cooks. In 2012, she was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America and has also authored many books on pastry (A Passion for Desserts, A Passion for Ice Cream, The Fearless Baker, Classic Stars Desserts).

2. Nancy Silverton, Co-owner of Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza alongside Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali; Los Angeles

Nancy has an incredible background. She opened Campanile and La Brea Bakery with her then-husband Mark Peel. She was the opening pastry chef for Spago restaurant in Los Angeles in 1982. It was during this time when she started experimenting with breads, like using grapes as a natural starter. She would produce all the breads all night, take a nap, then make the desserts for night service. 

I admire Nancy because she ventured into an area without any foundation in breadmaking. She revolutionized the bread scene by adding components like black olives, chocolate cherry, rosemary and many other flavor combinations that nobody was making at that time. What amazes me is that she created all her breads with just her feel and vision.   

3. Carme Ruscalleda, Chef/Owner of Restaurant Sant Pau; Sant Pol de Mar, Spain

Carme creates modern and eclectic cuisine inspired by her Catalan roots and culinary traditions. Her food has a woman's sensibility and femininity to it and developed a style that's like no one else's. She opened Sant Pau with her husband, Toni Balam,  in 1988. It received its first Michelin Guide star in 1991, and then in 2006, it received its third Michelin star. 

Working in the restaurant industry, I have always admired her work because I love seeing the creativity behind the way she presents her desserts. They are very unique in their own style, flavor and presentation. The cheese and dessert course come with a hand sketch and descriptions. 

Carme is one of the chefs that I admire without knowing her or having a meal there, but rather through research and conversations.  Sant Pau is one of those places that I hope to visit one day. 

4. Colette Pétremant, Executive Pastry Chef, Pierre Hermé; Paris

Colette is pretty much Pierre Hermé's right-hand person. As the saying goes "Behind every great man is a great woman." Colette has been with him for a very long time, at least 20 years. She has always been a part of any openings or new ventures where Pierre Hermé is involved. Her role is to manage and execute in large quantity the classic pastries and new creations by Pierre Hermé. 

I admire her because even though she has such an important position, she is still approachable and very supportive of the team while achieving Pierre Hermé standards. Also, when you see her, she always keeps her cool regardless of how much is on her plate. 

5. Maida Heatter, Pastry Chef and Cookbook Author

Maida is known as the Queen of Desserts with books including Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts, Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts and Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies. In 1988, she was inducted into the JBF Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America.

I admire her so very much because I always used her books even before I started my pastry career. They were the go-to books for cake, cookies and everything in between. Her books are very precise, simple and thorough and always lead to an unfailing end result. Her recipes are timeless classics, which is a style I really appreciate in my own work. 

Related: Latest Posts from Visionary Women

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