An Interview with John Tesar and Spoon's New Pastry Chef, David Collier

Categories: Interviews

David, are you working on any new ideas for pastries at Spoon?
Collier: I'm looking to do things more fruit related. In terms of John's "fluff" I do think there are a lot of modern desserts with piles of things, big piles. Which is fine and I appreciate the aesthetics of that, and I do things like that as well. But, sometimes that can be used to cover up the fact that there's not really that much going on. Or it's an exercise in 'How many things can I put on a plate?' and it loses direction. If something started out as pomegranate, then when you eat it, you should be able to tell that it's pomegranate.

I like clean lines, but I'm open to pretty much anything, as long as the guest is happy.

Will you bake any breads?
Collier: I'd like to do a couple service breads. It'd be an important part of the experience. When I got to The Mansion, we were baking all the breads in-house, except for the baguettes because of lack of time and equipment. I don't have a specific timeline for it though.

Does a pastry chef's schedule differ from the rest of the kitchen?
Collier: I'm usually there at 10 in the morning until about 10 or 11 at night, until the last plate goes. That's the blessing and the curse of pastry: we go last, we're the final impression the guest has of the restaurant. But, there's a lot more planning and time involved.

Is space an issue for pastry chefs?
Collier: Space is always a challenge. It's just all about carving a niche for yourself. At one job I had a table behind the door to the walk-in, so every time someone went in there, I got hit in the back with the door. Pastry just gets stuck where they get stuck. I'm thin, so I can fit in just about anywhere though.

John, you've both mentioned that at the end of the day, it's all about happy diners. Is that harder now given how tuned-in diners are? A few bad dishes make their way around the Web and it can be lethal.
Tesar: Yeah, and you can be a young chef with a big ego and not listen. If everyone else says it sucks, it pretty much sucks. You have to listen to that. [Collier is laughing hysterically in background.] You have to rework the concept, deconstruct it and see what's wrong.

But doesn't that instant feedback make it harder, especially for young chefs?
Tesar: I have so much respect for the fact that they try. Who wouldn't want to encourage change or growth? There's no pettiness in this. It shouldn't be competition.

John, reality TV: love it or list it?
Tesar: If I could talk about the whole thing, I would. But, reality TV is just a game show. It's entertainment. It doesn't define anyone as a man, or woman, or a chef, or a measure of who you are. Thirteen weeks of entertainment, and let the chips fall where they may. Whatever comes out in the end, it has nothing to do with my restaurant. I had to be entertaining. I could have been more entertaining, but I didn't want to be.

Would you do it again?
Tesar: Yeah. And I would know how to win this time. I didn't go to win the first time, but now I'm like ... angry. Don't anger me because then I'll go back and do something just for spite. Maybe I haven't matured all that much, but maybe that's what keeps me going.

I hope Josh Valentine wins.

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