In the culinary industry, there’s more than one road to success. While many culinary students dream of working for the Food Network, some of the most celebrated and respected chefs in the industry don’t have names or faces that you’ll regularly see on TV. In fact, most chefs go to work with a drive to be creative, to have an outlet to make food every day and to share their passion with others—not to become famous. If you’re a current ICE student, it’s wise for you to learn the names of some of these unsung heroes—the restaurant chefs who push our industry forward each and every day.
Below are five restaurant pastry chefs who have garnered significant recognition in their hometowns and across the country. Most of them have won an award or two, and some may even have had their 15 minutes of fame. But you won’t find their faces on your television screen five times a week because they are tirelessly creating extraordinary pastries in their kitchens—sometimes setting trends and always setting the standard. Whether they’re longstanding favorites or relatively new to the industry, all of them have become incredibly successful by following their own personal values and professional principles.
Bill Corbett—The Absinthe Group, San Francisco
Bill has well over a decade of experience, and has been the executive pastry chef for the The Absinthe Group for a handful of years. He’s a perfect example of how someone can start from the very bottom of the food industry and work their way up to the very top.
Originally from Canada, Bill’s first food job was as a dishwasher in Waterloo. After a few years in Florida working as a kitchen manager, Bill relocated to New York where he trained with some of the country’s most beloved pastry chefs at restaurants like WD~50, Dona and Anthos. Then he made his way to the West Coast, working for Michael Mina and a number of San Francisco’s critically acclaimed restaurants, including Arlequin Cafe, Boxing Room, Coi and Comstock Saloon.
Bill’s style is best described as balanced. His experience spans from avant-garde kitchens to rustic, farm-to-table establishments. His expertise pulls from all of his experiences, making his desserts interesting and unexpected, yet still approachable.
Kelly Fields—Besh Restaurant Group, New Orleans
Miss Kelly—as she’s called down south—grew up in the low country of South Carolina and has made her name as the executive pastry chef for Besh Restaurant Group in New Orleans.
Kelly’s career began in Charleston, where she focused on classic southern specialties and learned about regional ingredients. Upon moving to New Orleans, she found her way in the kitchen of the beloved Chef Susan Spicer’s restaurant, Bayona. It was there that Kelly decided on pastry as a career path and, in an effort to expand her knowledge of classic techniques, enrolled at Johnson & Wales in Charleston.
Kelly then began traveling—spending time in kitchens from San Francisco to New Zealand. But her love for New Orleans called her back, where she landed the position as executive pastry chef under John Besh at Restaurant August. Kelly did so well in the role that she ultimately grew to oversee the pastry departments in John Besh’s eight restaurants.
In her latest project, Kelly is collaborating with fellow Besh Group pastry chef, Lisa White. Willa Jean, a southern bakery and café named after Kelly’s grandmother, is slated to open mid-August in New Orleans’ Central Business District.
Colleen Grapes—Oceana, New York City
With a name like Grapes, you’re pretty much fated to work in food. Reigning as the executive pastry chef at New York City’s Oceana, Colleen’s seasonal menu is a favorite among the fine dining set.
Colleen has been baking for many, many years. Originally from New Jersey, her career has flourished at such New York City restaurants as The Red Cat, The Harrison, Irving Mill, Ono and Dressler.
What’s more, Colleen’s career path includes more formal training than many of her peers. She studied at Johnson & Wales University, where she received both a Bachelor of Science in food service management and an associate degree in Baking and Pastry Arts. She also trained at Valrhona School of Chocolate in France. Drawing from her exhaustive education, Colleen is a master of technique—her mousse is always silky smooth, her ice creams are never icy and her shortbreads crumble delicately in your mouth. When I want a dessert that will always satisfy, I go wherever Colleen is baking.
Kristen Murray—Måurice, Portland, OR
Kristen is chef/owner of MÅURICE, a “modern pastry luncheonette” that has received such acclaim as “Destination of the Year” (Portland Monthly Magazine) and “Top 10 Best New Restaurants in America” (Bon Appetit).
Growing up, Kristen was charmed by the beautiful fruits, herbs and vegetables in her great aunt’s Southern California vegetable garden. Her earliest baking experience was picking fresh fruit alongside her grandmother and said aunt—from raspberries to persimmons, figs and kumquats—just moments before baking.
Throughout her career, Kristin has traveled extensively, working in kitchens from San Francisco to New York City, Boston and France before eventually finding her way back in the west. Today, as a pastry entrepreneur, her work draws from the diverse flavors and cultures she encountered along the way.
MÅURICE was truly an entrepreneurial dream come true—funded by $40K in donations from a Kickstarter campaign. The award-winning menu features light lunch options with a bakery bent, like quiche, sandwiches and tartines. But the sweets are the real knockouts: breakfast pastries, plated desserts and small bites inspired by the regional produce of Portland.
Greg Mosko—Park Hyatt Hotel, Chicago
Greg is one of those pastry chefs who started out with the intention of becoming a savory chef, and you can still see traces of this sweet and savory balance in his creative desserts.
A Chicago native, Greg studied culinary arts at Kendall College. His post-graduation externship introduced him to pastry, which persuaded him to continue his education at The French Pastry School. From there, he started his career at the acclaimed restaurants Zealous and North Pond. Then, like many chefs, he decided to test the waters on the West Coast, working his way through wine country at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, The French Laundry and at Cavallo Point Resort in Sausalito. But after just a couple of years, his hometown called him back.
Greg returned to North Pond as the pastry chef, baking beautiful desserts under Chef Bruce Sherman for the next six years. His craft focuses on seasonal produce and simple, elegant sweets. He also enjoys incorporating unconventional ingredients, as in his smoked chocolate mousse with avocado and jerk pineapple.
Greg recently relocated to the Park Hyatt Chicago, where he dazzles an ever-growing audience with his desserts. There, he oversees a complex operation of room service, banquets and the dessert menu at NoMI, the hotel’s main dining room.
Ready to kick-start your future in pastry? Click here to learn more about ICE’s career training program in Pastry & Baking Arts.