My birthday is tomorrow. Depending on whose age you look at in my family I am either not yet approaching middle age or will die in about 20 years. Supposedly this means I am to look at where I've been and where I'm going.
Up until very recently much of who I was, was one thing. Pastry Chef. The title, the position I'd been working for the last fourteen years, although much of the time unbeknownst to me, towards this goal. I identified myself with the restaurant I worked for. Which is a very good thing, because the second question people ask me, after learning how to pronounce my name, is, "Oh really, where do you work?"
I worked as a pastry cook and assistant for almost 8 years when I was given my first pastry chef job. Many of the assistants I worked alongside went on to be famous pastry chefs themselves. And I watched many cooks and sous chefs become chefs of their own restaurants. From my point of view one worked themselves up in the ranks before being given or holding a chef title.
In the last few weeks I have consumed more desserts at restaurants (A16, Campton Place, Rubicon, Two, Delfina.) than I did all last year. And this week I'll be eating more. In part due to birthday dinners, but also as research for a position I'm interviewing for. The object is to find out who is making what in San Francisco. The goal is to assess the palate of the person I may work with, and for him to see what I might make or what sweet things inspire me. We are both looking at where our foggy city, one of the most food and restaurant-centric in The United States, stands on the platform of pastry chef hiring.
I have even called upon the Chowhounders to help me track down the best sugary courses within these forty-nine miles. Sadly, it's been like getting a straight answer out of a lawyer. One dessert here, another there. Some have even been so bold as to tell me about the artificially-flavored butterscotch pudding at Town Hall. (An article about real butterscotch in The Washington Post here.)