Sweet on Dessert

These metro Detroit pastry chefs take the cake when it comes to creating confections that serve as memorable finales. Here, they take a break from baking to showcase their work and dish some sugary secrets. Photographs by Dave Frechette
From left to right: Violetta Pietrushi, Ristorante Café Cortina; Shadir Myzeqari, Ristorante Café Cortina; Deno Challon, The Lark; Cate Akerman, Gandy Dancer; Mark Slessor, Big Rock Chophouse & The Reserve; Kara Ancchione, Holiday Market; Sue Poster, Epoch Catering/Forté; Richard Venadam, Sweet Lorraine’s Café; Marybeth King, Weber’s Restaurant; Greg Stroker, Tribute; Tricia Nash, MotorCity Casino.

Mark Slessor
Mark Slessor / Big Rock Chophouse & The Reserve – Banana Malt Trio

Mark Slessor / Big Rock Chophouse & The Reserve

Do women like dessert more than men? And do you think there are female and male desserts?

I feel women like the presentation and design of the dessert.

What do you like about being a pastry chef?

Being a pastry chef is like being a baker, artist, chemist, and designer all rolled into one. It’s really the ultimate job.

Deno Challon
Deno Challon / The Lark – Vineyard Charlotte

Deno Challon / The Lark

Why is dessert important?

Growing up, family gatherings and celebrations revolved around desserts. For me, eating dessert is a celebration.

What do you like about being a pastry chef?

Growing up, my mom would always tell me to stop playing with my food. Now, 30-some years later, I still haven’t listened. It’s simply one of my passions.

Marybeth King
Marybeth King / Weber’s Restaurant – Fresh Peach Tart

Marybeth King / Weber’s Restaurant

What is the most popular dessert on your menu?

In late summer, our fresh peach tart sells out almost every night.

Why is dessert important?

It’s the last taste (and impression) you have of an evening at a restaurant. You want that to be “sweet.”

Shadir Myzeqari and Violetta Pietrushi
Shadir Myzeqari (left)Violetta Pietrushi (right) / Ristorante Café Cortina – Lemoncello Napoleon

Shadir Myzeqari and Violetta Pietrushi/ Ristorante Café Cortina

What do you find is most attractive to the most people? Chocolate? Pastry?

Definitely pastry. — Shadir Myzeqari

Do people eat dessert less often than they once did?

Not really, [but] if a fruit dessert is offered, it’s ordered for a lighter finish. — Violetta Pietrushi

Tricia Nash
Tricia Nash / MotorCity Casino – Apple Festival

Tricia Nash / MotorCity Casino

What do you find is most attractive to the most people? Chocolate? Pastry?

Simple recognizable flavors, nostalgic flavors, and sweets that make the old new again.

How do desserts vary by season? What are your favorite seasonal desserts?

The season obviously dictates the produce, and you just build from there. I enjoy the fall, with its emphasis on nuts, caramel, and pumpkin; it reminds me of my childhood.

 
Cate Akerman
Cate Akerman / Gandy Dancer – Media Luna

Cate Akerman / Gandy Dancer

What is your specialty?

I enjoy making updated comfort classics. People remember something they loved from childhood. I put a spin on it. My second specialty is making/designing wedding cakes. It’s so rewarding to see the bride and groom’s faces when they see and taste your creation.

What is the most popular dessert on your menu?

The truffle cake with a warm truffle center, ice cream, hot fudge, Heath bits, and Frangelico Anglaise.

Kara Ancchione
Kara Ancchione / Holiday Market – Holiday’s Birthday Surprise

Kara Ancchione / Holiday Market

They say life is short, eat dessert first. Is that something you suggest?

Dessert should be the crowning jewel at the end of a great meal. Save the best for last.

Do you see any current trends in dessert menus, for example: greater use of fruits, more homemade ice creams, lower fat, portions designed to share?

The one trend that will never change is that anything chocolate still rules.

Chauncey Billups
Greg Stroker / Tribute – Caramel Chai Apple Crisp

Greg Stroker / Tribute

When you order dessert, what is typically your favorite?

Mint chocolate chip ice cream.

What do you find is most attractive to the most people? Chocolate? Pastry?

Chocolate sells itself.

Chauncey Billups
Richard Venadam / Sweet Lorraine’s Café – White Chocolate Cheesecake

Richard Venadam / Sweet Lorraine’s Café

What is the most popular dessert on your menu?

Carrot cake.

How do desserts vary by season? What are your favorite seasonal desserts?

Spring desserts tend to be refreshing, summer more fruity, fall more spicy, and winter more warming.

Sue Poster
Sue Poster / Epoch Catering/Forté – California Signature Torte

Sue Poster / Epoch Catering/Forté

Do women like dessert more than men? And do you think there are female and male desserts?

I think men are the ones who like dessert most. I’ve been doing pastries for a long time and have had many men say they want to take me home!

What do you like about being a pastry chef?

I get to make 7-foot chocolate trees, a mammoth gingerbread house with a glass conservatory, and doughnut sculptures. But the best part of my job is working under my son, executive chef Terry Poster.

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