Dessert Professional magazine proudly presents the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America for 2015.
Each year Dessert Professional names the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America and holds an event to celebrate the honorees and their work. This year’s big celebration was held at the La Venue in New York City on the evening of June 2, with each of the 10 chefs creating and serving a dessert of his or her choice. Following is a list of our Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America 2015, short recaps of their careers, and the recipe for the dessert that each chef served. We also include a profile of Sebastien Cannone, co-founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago, who is this year’s Hall of Fame honoree. The 2015 Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America event was presented by: The Guittard Chocolate Company, KitchenAid, Nielsen-Massey, and Beurremont.
- Lisa Bailey
- Jimmy LeClerc
- Salvatore Martone
- Maura Metheny
- Michelle Gayer
- Thomas Raquel
- Thiago Silva
- Miro Uskokovic
- William Werner
- Zac Young
- 2015 Hall of Fame Inductee: Sébastien Canonne
Co-owner, D Bar, Denver, CO and San Diego, CA
Born and raised in Brazoria, Texas, Lisa Bailey is a Texan through and through. And, like many Southerners, food is one of her greatest passions. Her love of cooking was cultivated at an early age with Julia Child episodes and visits with her grandmother in Louisiana. She adored her grandmother’s copper pots and KitchenAid mixer and the refined Southern cuisine that she prepared so effortlessly. At age 12, Lisa wrote a poem entitled “A Chef Is What I Want To Be,” and her future became clear.
After graduating from high school, Lisa won the Anne Criswell scholarship to attend the Art Institute of Houston. During school, Lisa had the opportunity to work in the pristine kitchens of the Houston Country Club and Four Seasons Hotel, where her love of pastry was ignited. She continued her career as pastry chef for John Harris at Lilette Restaurant in New Orleans. The next important step in her pastry career was a move to Las Vegas. Lisa once again joined the team at the Four Seasons before becoming the opening pastry chef for Corsa Restaurant at the Wynn Las Vegas. It was during their time in Vegas that Lisa and her husband, fellow pastry chef Keegan Gerhard, realized that their dream of opening a place of their own wouldn’t always have to be just a dream. In 2008, the couple opened D Bar Desserts in Denver. Lisa was quickly named best new pastry chef in Denver by local media, and D Bar was named top 10 best new restaurants in Denver by 5280 magazine in its opening year. D Bar has been awarded People’s Choice Best Desserts in Denver every year since it opened. In 2012, the couple opened a second award winning D Bar Restaurant in San Diego.
Executive Pastry Chef, Laduree, USA
Jimmy Leclerc’s interest in the culinary world began at an early age. As a child he would accompany his father, who appreciated fine cuisine and desserts, on trips to Paris, where the two would canvas the city in search of new treats. These fond memories became the stepping-stone for his career as a pastry chef, igniting Jimmy’s passion for baking.
Years later Jimmy obtained his CAP-BEP as a baker at CIFAM, studying in Nantes, France, from 1998 to 2000. Continuing his education at CIFAM, he obtained his CAP in pastry in 2002, learning the art of the pastry while studying at Pastry Chatellier in La Baule, France. Ready to explore the world, Jimmy left France and traveled to Valencia, Spain, where he became the Deputy French Pastry Chef at Lambert from 2002 to 2005.
After enjoying his residency in Spain, Jimmy embarked on a year-long travel tour of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Uruguay, soaking up the culinary wonders of South America, where he would serve as a pastry chef at “La Bourgogne”, a Relais Chateau estate in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Returning to Spain in 2006, Jimmy accepted a position at Anmari’s, a French restaurant in the costal town of Moraira, where he continued to practice the art of pastry, forging his classic training with the new flavors and recipes from his travels.
In 2007, Jimmy accepted a position as a chef at Ladurée Paris, fulfilling a childhood dream by returning to the favorite patisserie he once visited with his father. Living out this dream, three years later he became a Deputy Head at Ladurée International, traveling to different Ladurée locations in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, Monaco, Japan and Dubaï, where he was enlisted to bring the exceptional pastries of Ladurée to the rest of the world. In 2015, Jimmy traveled to New York to serve as the Executive Pastry Chef of Ladurée U.S. for the opening of the first Ladurée tea salon and restaurant in SoHo. Today, Jimmy continues his passion for baking with a sense of nostalgia, reliving his childhood memories of visiting the great pastry institution that he now calls home.
Executive Pastry Chef, Joel Robuchon Restaurant and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, MGM Grand Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
Salvatore Martone has been the Executive Pastry Chef at Joel Robuchon Restaurant (three Michelin stars) and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (one Michelin star) at MGM Grand Las Vegas since May 2013, where he previously worked as Executive Pastry Sous-chef (2005 to 2008).
Earlier in his career, while living in New York City, Salvatore was the Pastry Chef at the Four Seasons Hotel beginning in May 2010, overseeing L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon restaurant (two Michelin stars). He was awarded first prize at the Starchef International Pastry Competition in 2011. Prior to that, he was the Executive Pastry Chef at The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa in Ojai, California and was also part of the opening team at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.
Continual education has been a key instrument in Salvatore’s career. He began his education at the School of Culinary Arts in Naples, Italy. He later attended a Masterclass program at l’Etoile in Venice, Italy. To round out his pastry knowledge, he also attended The French Pastry School in Chicago. Periodically, he furthers his education with classes from those who are masters in their fields, and also teaches classes at renowned culinary schools in the United States.
Chef Chocolatier/Head of Design & Innovation, Norman Love Confections, Fort Myers, FL
Maura Metheny, a Massachusetts native, was formally trained in ceramic arts and glass before turning to a career in pastry and chocolate. She earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts in New York and then, intrigued by the artistry of baking and pastry, earned an associate degree in pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.
At the end of her studies, Metheny moved to Lucerne, Switzerland, where she worked in pastry and chocolate. She returned to the United States to join The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, creating desserts and confections for the hotel’s acclaimed fine dining outlets.
In 2001, Metheny began assisting Chef Norman Love part-time, while continuing to work full time at The Ritz-Carlton. In 2003, she joined Norman Love Confections full time as the chocolate production manager for the Fort Myers-based confectioner. In this position, she designed and oversaw the daily production of more than 35,000 pieces of handmade, ultra-premium confections, as well as the production of G Chocolate for Godiva, FM Artisan by Norman Love for Fannie May Chocolates and numerous specialty lines for resorts, restaurants and shops nationwide.
Metheny was promoted to head of chocolate design and product innovation in 2011. She is responsible for the development of new products, packaging design and the continued development and execution of all chocolate lines produced by Norman Love Confections. Metheny, having traveled the world to numerous classes and competitions, takes her inspiration from both industry and art to design and create beautiful and indulgent lines of airbrushed confections.
Metheny was chosen as a Distinguished Visiting Chef at Johnson & Wales University in 2015 and was selected as a 2014 “40 under 40” honoree by Gulfshore Business magazine. She is the recipient of the 2014 National Product Design Award for the Love Origins product packaging and was selected as a judge for the 2014 Pastry Live competition in Atlanta.
She competed as a team captain in the Pastry Live 2013 National Showpiece Championship, heading one of only eight teams chosen to compete in Atlanta. Metheny, with co-worker Chef/Chocolatier Dan Forgey, was named National Showpiece Champion for the Best Overall/Most Excellent Showpiece and Best Chocolate Showpiece. She also placed second for Pastry Live 2013 Chocolatier of the Year.
In March 2013, she earned a bronze medal in the 24th annual U.S. Pastry Competition for Pastry Chef of the Year, sponsored by Paris Gourmet in New York City and was featured on the cover of the April 2013 issue of this magazine for the competition. She had previously earned silver medals in the 2008 and 2009 Florida Showpiece Competitions.
A consummate professional, Metheny strives each day to be better than the day before, and to assist Norman Love Confections in continually raising the bar within the industry.
Chef/Owner, Salty Tart, Minneapolis, MN
Michelle Gayer is the most critically acclaimed pastry chef currently living in the Twin Cities area, and is recognized as one of the best in the country. In 2002 and 2010 she received a James Beard “Outstanding Pastry Chef” nomination and has been featured on the Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate program for her Coconut Macaroons.
Gayer gained fame as the Executive Pastry Chef for Charlie Trotter’s and Trotter’s To Go in Chicago, where she also partnered with Trotter to write Charlie Trotter’s Desserts. In 2004, she moved to the Twin Cities to become the Executive Pastry Chef for the Franklin Street Bakery where her pastries were proclaimed “grand-slam spectacular” by Star Tribune restaurant critic Rick Nelson. In late 2005, she left Franklin Street Bakery to join Le Cordon Bleu as an instructor and also became Executive Pastry Chef for Minneapolis four-star restaurants, La Belle Vie and Solera in 2007. In 2008, Gayer fulfilled her dream by opening her own bakery, Salty Tart in South Minneapolis in the Midtown Global Market.
Salty Tart features Gayer’s extraordinarily stylish to free-form rustic creations. Sweet to savory selections such as creamy coconut macaroons, golden rosemary corn cakes, pastry cream filled brioche and savory puff pastry all perfectly complement the custom desserts and breads made fresh daily. Gayer features the best in seasonal fruits, flavors and baking creativity. In addition, each summer Michelle participates in the Minnesota State Fair introducing her famous “crack-a-roons” to thousands of people from all over the state of Minnesota.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, 2015 Top Ten Pastry Chef Michelle Gayer was unable to join us on June 2nd in NYC.
Executive Pastry Chef, Le Bernardin, New York, NY
As Le Bernardin’s Executive Pastry Chef, Thomas Raquel creates modern, seasonal desserts rooted in classic technique that complement the cuisine of Chef Eric Ripert. Raquel grew up in the Philippines and Los Angeles, learning how to cook from his Filipino grandmother. He had planned to be a doctor, but after graduating from high school at the early age of 16, he took a weekend cooking class and decided to enroll in the California School of Culinary Arts before committing his studies to medicine.
As a student, Raquel was often placed in the pastry section, where he was quickly drawn to the precision and delicate nature of the craft. After working at Los Angeles restaurants such as Lucques, AOC and The Water Grill, as well as Wolfgang Puck Catering, he graduated, eager to join the industry professionally. He decided to pursue a career in the pastry arts and traveled to Paris, where he staged at the acclaimed Pierre Hermé patisserie.
In 2008, Raquel accepted a pastry position at L2O in Chicago, where Chef Laurent Gras had a strong influence on him, driving his discipline and helping him hone his style of bridging modern elements with time-honored technique. Four years later, he became the Pastry Chef of Chicago’s Acadia, which allowed him to create a menu all his
own and further fine-tune his approach. His work would earn him the title of Rising Pastry Chef by the 2014 Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence, and a spot on Zagat Chicago’s ‘30 Under 30’ list in 2013.
Raquel brings his singular touch to Le Bernardin’s dessert menu, calling upon his experience, travels and dedication to seasonality to create pastries with universal appeal that are at once simple, beautiful and delicious.
Corporate Pastry Chef EMM Group, New York, NY
Hailed for his innovative cake designs, EMM Group’s Corporate Pastry Chef Thiago Silva’s creations have served as elegant centerpieces on the tables of such stars as Sofia Vergara, Miranda Kerr, John Legend, and Carmelo Anthony. Completely self-taught, Silva has risen through the ranks of Manhattan’s restaurant landscape from the early age of 13, after his mother encouraged him to take his first cake-decorating course.
At the age of 19, Silva had his first professional experience, working as a pastry cook at Todd English’s New York City restaurant Olives. Shortly thereafter, Silva moved to Sant Ambroeus bakery. During his two years there, Silva was able to explore his affinity for creating cakes, ultimately deciding to further hone his skills in the kitchen at Atria.
In 2009, Silva went on to join the team at EMM Group as the Pastry Sous Chef of its flagship eatery, Abe & Arthurs. Here he perfected his craft producing art-quality cakes both quickly and frequently for a diverse group of discerning diners.
Working closely with Executive Chef John Beatty at CATCH, Silva has skillfully and playfully designed a pastry menu that reflects the restaurant’s identity. With marquee menu items like the Sticky Coconut Cake, Apple Pie Donut, and ‘Hit Me’ Chocolate Cake, Silva’s confections are sleek, deconstructed takes on dessert classics that complement the sharable nature of the restaurant’s dinner menu. His imaginative and whimsical style makes Silva and his pastry department an integral component in developing the character of CATCH.
In late 2012, Silva was promoted to Corporate Pastry Chef and currently works with all of EMM Group’s restaurants including Lexington Brass, CATCH, and CATCH Dubai. In June 2013, Silva won Zagat’s 30 Under 30 award which celebrates the country’s 30 best chefs, mixologists, restaurateurs and other culinary types under the age of 30. In April 2015, Silva competed on and won an episode o Food Network’s Chopped, taking home the title of Chopped champion.
Pastry Chef, Gramercy Tavern, New York, NY
Miro Uskokovic was named Pastry Chef of Gramercy Tavern in fall 2013. Born and raised in Serbia, Miro grew up on a family farm where his mother had small cheese and cake-making operations. At 17, he travelled to the U.S. for the first time to live in Greentown, Indiana for a year as part of a high school exchange program. After returning home to Serbia and attending hospitality college, Miro relocated to Greentown where he nurtured his love of baking, working with local Pastry Chef Andrea Kirkpatrick in her shop Pastry Diva, known for modern American cakes. He then enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America, where he received an associate degree in the culinary program in 2008. While completing his externship in the savory kitchen at Wallsé, Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner’s flagship restaurant in New York City, Miro met Jean Georges Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini, who offered him the opportunity to train as his production intern during his days off. After completing his program at the CIA, he returned to Jean Georges as a pastry cook. Within a year and a half, Miro had become the Pastry Sous Chef at Jean Georges, working first under Iuzzini and then Pastry Chef Joseph Murphy. After several years at Jean Georges, Miro was named the Pastry Chef at Aldea, Chef George Mendes’ restaurant in the Flatiron section of New York. Miro’s contemporary American desserts are created out of a collection of personal memories and experiences, as well as influence from other cuisines.
Chef/Partner, Craftsman and Wolves, San Francisco, CA
William Werner is Chef/Partner of Craftsman and Wolves, a contemporary pâtisserie in the vibrant Mission district of San Francisco, with an online retail shop and farmers’ market stand at the venerable CUESA Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Called “the most brilliant pastry shop in years” by Dana Cowin of Food & Wine magazine, Craftsman and Wolves offers seasonally changing pastries, cakes, confections, confitures, breads, desserts, as well as savory fare and signature drinks.
Since opening, Werner has garnered praise both locally and nationally in the press, including The New York Times T magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Esquire, and Bon Appétit. GQ magazine named his famous “Rebel Within” as #6 on “The 50 Best Things to Eat and Drink Right Now.” Werner also serves as a Valrhona Pastry Chef Consultant and leads professional culinary demonstrations and classes around the U.S. and Canada.
Some of Werner’s awards and accolades include: James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Baker” 2015 finalist; San Francisco Magazine’s “2014 Best Pastry Chef”; Plate Magazine’s “2014 30 Chefs to Watch”; and Star Chefs’ “2013 Rising Star Artisan”.
Executive Pastry Chef, David Burke Group, New York, NY
While employed in the wig department of the famous Radio City Rockettes, Zac Young had an epiphany; he would rather be baking cookies than fluffing Santa beards. After graduating with honors from the Baking and Pastry Arts program at the Institute of Culinary Education, Zac went straight to the top, working under Sebastian Rouxel and Richard Capizzi at Bouchon Bakery. In 2006, his potential was recognized by Alexandra Guarnaschelli, and she offered him the position of Pastry Chef at her downtown, New York hot-spot Butter Restaurant. At Butter, Young developed his signature style, using classic French technique, bold flavors, and over-the-top-fun to put a creative twist on classic American desserts. Time Out New York praised his desserts as “beautiful and delicious.” Always hungry for more, he trained in France with renowned chefs Philippe Givre at Valrhona and Philippe Parc at Chocolate Michel Cluizel.
In 2009, Chef Young moved uptown to the bustling Flex Mussels. His fantastical creations caught the fancy of The New York Times’ Restaurant Critic Frank Bruni, causing him to exclaim, “…how lucky of us to find room for dessert,” in his review of Flex Mussels, and also made the paper’s list of the Top Ten Donuts in New York City. In 2010, a second Flex Mussels in the West Village and two pop-up “Flex Donut” stores in Grand Central Station opened, giving Chef Zac an even larger stage to showcase his sweet talents. In 2012, Zac joined the team at celebrated Chef David Burke’s newest project, David Burke Kitchen in the James Hotel – SoHo. Young’s whimsically infused farm-to-table desserts are a perfect match for Chef Burke’s signature style. In 2014, Zac was promoted to Executive Pastry Chef for The David Burke Group, where his desserts can be found at the groups’ properties including the flagship David Burke Townhouse, Fishtail and David Burke fabrick at the Archer Hotel.
Young gained national exposure on Bravo’s first season of Top Chef Just Desserts, where he dazzled the judges with his creativity and skill, grabbing a top spot in the final four. His signature wit and pastry knowledge can be seen on The Cooking Channel’s series, Unique Sweets, now in its sixth season, and in reoccurring cameos on Food Network. He has been honored with invitations to cook around the world, from the James Beard House in New York, to Macau, China and on board Holland America Cruise Lines as “Chef On Board”.
Co-founder, French Pastry School, Chicago, IL
Chef Canonne is the co-founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago and one of the leading representatives of French pastry and culinary arts. His impressive career began in his native France with a culinary apprenticeship at the School of Hospitality and Hotel Management in Rouen, Normandy (Ecole Hôtelière de Rouen), and later with a pastry apprenticeship under the legendary pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre. After several years spent with Mr. Lenôtre at his famous pastry manufacturing plant of Plaisir and at the Pré-Catelan restaurant in Paris, his path brought him to some of the world-renowned, three-star Michelin restaurants and leading luxury hotels: The Côte Saint Jacques in Joigny, Burgundy, France; the Beau Rivage Palace in Geneva, Switzerland; the Euler Palace Hotel in Basel, Switzerland; the Palais de L’Elysée for French President François Mitterrand in Paris, France; and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. These exceptional experiences led Chef Canonne to teach and consult in the most prominent properties and companies worldwide, such as the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts companies, the Raffles Hotel in Singapore; and the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas. In 1995, Sébastien Canonne, along with Jacquy Pfeiffer, founded The French Pastry School, an institution devoted to superior education and imparting excellence. By mentoring and inspiring students, the school shapes industry leaders and entrepreneurs who are committed and passionate. Today, The French Pastry School is considered one of the leading pastry institutions in the world.
1996 United States National Pastry Cup Champion
1996 Named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America by Chocolatier and Pastry Art & Design magazines
1997 Awarded the Medal of Excellence by the Vatel Club of Chicago
1997 Named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America by Chocolatier and Pastry Art & Design magazines
1997 Silver medal with the US Team at the World Pastry Cup (Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie) in Lyon, France
2000 National Pastry Champion in Beaver Creek, Colorado
2000 Inducted into the Académie Culinaire de France
2000 Awarded a place on the Chicago Tribune’s Good Eating Honor Roll
2001 Jean Banchet Award of Excellence for Best Culinary School in America
2002 Coach of US Pastry World Champion team in Las Vegas, Nevada
2004 Awarded the prestigious title of M.O.F, Best Craftsman of France (Meilleur Ouvrier de France)
2004 Named Pastry Chef of the Year at the World Pastry Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada
2007 Named one of the top 40 under 40 in Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine
2009 Named Knight by the Académie Culinaire de France in the World Order of The Académie Culinaire de France (Chevalier dans l’Ordre Mondial de l’Académie Culinaire de France)
2010 Featured in the Kings of Pastry documentary directed by internationally acclaimed filmmakers and Oscar winner, DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus
2011 Coach of the National Pastry Champion team in Las Vegas, Nevada
2012 Coach of the silver medal US Team at the World Pastry Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada
2012 Named Knight by the French Government in the Order of the Academic Palms (Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques)
2013 Awarded the Medal of the Centennial Honor by the Académie Culinaire de France
2015 Named Knight by the French Government in the prestigious National Order of the Legion of Honor (Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur)
2015 Inducted into the Pastry Hall of Fame by Dessert Professional magazine
Chef Canonne has won numerous national and international pastry titles. In 2000, he was inducted into the prestigious Académie Culinaire de France. In 2002, Chef Canonne coached the United States Pastry World Champion team. In 2004, he was awarded by his peers the prestigious M.O.F title (Meilleur Ouvrier De France), the highest professional recognition for a pastry chef in France. In 2006, he co-founded the For the Love of Chocolate Scholarship Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has provided over $650,000 in scholarships to students in the pastry arts. In 2009, Chef Canonne was inducted in the World Order of the Académie Culinaire de France (Chevalier dans l’Ordre Mondial de l’Académie Culinaire de France). In 2012, the French Government bestowed on him the title of a Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms (Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques), a French Order of Chivalry and the highest teaching recognition for distinguished academic accomplishments in the world of culture and education. Additionally, the French Government knighted him in the prestigious National Order of the Legion of Honor (Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur). Established in 1802, this French Order of Merit is the highest recognition for outstanding career, entrepreneurship and distinguished civic conduct.
Professional and Civic Mission:
Chef Cannone’s mission is to represent the culinary and pastry arts at its finest, pursing excellence while maintaining the respect and integrity of traditions and contributions of past mentors and teachers. He is a strong advocate of hospitality industry partnerships and social entrepreneurship for employment development.
Chef Canonne is currently the Academic Dean for Faculty & Programs at The French Pastry School, an honorary co-chair of For the Love of Chocolate Foundation, and he serves as a Trustee for the Académie Culinaire de France.