Westgate pastry chef wins national competition

Stephen Sullivan, executive pastry chef at the Westgate, didn’t venture out much while he was on staycation last March. He was holed up at home, thinking about horses and watching films about horse racing — “National Velvet,” “International Velvet,” “Seabiscuit.”

“The Great Race,” the theme for this year’s 29th annual U.S. Pastry Competition, had been announced and he’d decided to focus on horse racing.

It paid off. On March 4, Sullivan was named Pastry Chef of the Year at the competition, part of the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York.

During that time at home, Sullivan started working on the drawing for his chocolate showpiece.

“I tied in the elements and color” in the drawing, he said, eventually working in a jockey, horse, starting gate, trophy, whip, stopwatch, red roses for the Kentucky Derby and black-eyed Susans for the Preakness. And the word Saratoga, for the famous thoroughbred track in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., “so I could tell a story.”

In addition to the showpiece, he’d have to create a plated dessert and six signature desserts. He knew what the competition would entail because he competed in 2010.

“I realized there was a whole world out there I needed to learn,” Sullivan said of that earlier contest. “When you see this stuff and you’re not at that level, it’s really an experience. I wanted to wait to compete again. I wanted to win with respect; I didn’t want to waste people’s time.”

He set out to master aspects of what is a deceptively technical field. Once he was comfortable with those, he thought, “the artistry would come out.”

Two years ago, Sullivan was asked to enter the competition again, but he’d started at the Westgate only a few months before and didn’t want any distractions. He said he would compete this year, and chose as his mentor Vincent Pilon, executive pastry chef at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, who is a World Chocolate Master and “a pretty integral guy in my career.”

“I worked on it a whole year,” Sullivan said. “We didn’t mess around.”

He was no stranger to big projects. While working at the Fairmont San Francisco, he built a chocolate replica of the Golden Gate Bridge for its 75th anniversary, in front of a crowd in Ghirardelli Square. He also erected a 23-foot gingerbread house.

“You have to be really brave,” he said. “That’s where I developed a style.”

The chocolate showpiece’s individual parts were made in advance (with extra sets, just in case), carefully packed and flown to New York. Westgate carpenters built seven wooden crates and United Airlines agreed to let him put them in the overhead compartments. They arrived intact.

Sullivan was accompanied by his wife, Eva; Alfonso Menendez, a baker who assisted him; and Aaron Losch, Westgate director of culinary operations.

At Lotte New York Palace hotel, the competition allotted him kitchen space to do prep. There, he created the plated dessert, which was milk chocolate ganache on coconut cake topped with coconut cream, a sort of “modern abstract” rendering of a garland that would adorn a winning horse’s head, with mango-passionfruit-marinated pineapple and mango-passionfruit sorbet in its center.

He also created the signature desserts — petite cakes, three fruit and three chocolate . Because he used brightly colored, modern presentations he chose classic flavors: chocolate-hazelnut, bittersweet chocolate-salted caramel and caramelized Rice Krispie crunch topped with chocolate mousse and chocolate cream. The fruit choices were banana-passionfruit-coconut mousse, yogurt cake and yogurt cream with mixed-berry cream and mixed-berry mousse and a coconut marshmallow, and lemon meringue with almond sponge and raspberry jam.

He would have three hours to put all three together and clean up his station, and “I really needed all of it.”

After winning, he said he bowed to the judges — twice.

“I was surprised,” he said. “And the judges were so complimentary.”

His prize was $10,000, but something else was more important.

“The big thing is the gold medal,” Sullivan said. “The title passes, but you never give the medal away.”

Chef offers guidelines to making Easter chocolate treats

Want to try your hand at making chocolate candies for Easter on Sunday? The easiest way, especially for beginning candy-makers, is to go to a local craft store, or Tempting Treasures by Jan at 30 S. Water St. in Henderson, and buy “melting wafers” or “candy melts.” They contain palm kernel or other oils and can be easily melted in a double boiler or microwave and then poured into plastic molds, also available at these stores.

If you’d rather use regular chocolate, the melting and molding process is a little more complicated, according to Stephen Sullivan, executive pastry chef at the Westgate, because the chocolate had to be tempered.

He said regular chocolate (he suggests Valrhona, which he’s found at Cost Plus World Market), contains cocoa butter, which melts at body temperature; “that’s why it melts in your mouth and gives that creamy feel. Where it gets a little complicated is there’s lots of crystals in the fat, and when they solidify, they all kind of do their own thing.”

Two of the crystals create the desirable shiny, hard surface, he said; the tempering process promotes the environment for those to replicate.

“It takes time, it takes the proper temperature and it takes movement,” he said.

To temper chocolate at home, he suggests using the “seeding” method, which he uses at Westgate. It requires a digital thermometer and an immersion blender.

Sullivan suggests dark chocolate, which he said melts more slowly. Reserve one fifth of the chocolate and chop it into small pieces (the “seeds”); heat the chocolate to 110 degrees, “and you have a clean slate.” Don’t allow water to get into the chocolate, because that will cause it to seize.

At 110 degrees, it’s time to start stirring and cooling the chocolate slightly, to 94 degrees (86 to 88 degrees for milk chocolate, 84 to 86 for white). Add the chopped chocolate, using the immersion blender to combine it.

“You want at that point to make sure you still have some of the ‘seeds’ in there,” Sullivan said. “If they’re not all melted off, they’re going to start the chain reaction to create the beta crystals.

“The immersion blender creates the movement. The temperature’s going down and the crystals are dispersing.”

Melted at 94 degrees, it can be poured into molds. Sullivan said chocolate conducts heat; if you’re using a large-volume mold, it can actually increase in temperature. To counteract that, he suggets putting it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, at which point you should be able to unmold it cleanly.

He also has advice on when — and when not — to use colored chocolate.

“I’d recommend to use the natural color of the chocolate,” he said, with maybe a combination of dark, milk and white. “You achieve more of a European classic look.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Buddy V - Sep 21 Confidante
Famous Infinity Mirror Room is open in Las Vegas
Yayoi Kusama's "Aftermath of Obliteration of Infinity" mirror room is open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like