Sunday, July 29, 2012

new Hyatt NOLA Pastry Chef, I'm not jealous no... but they probably let him have more than 2 untrained staff :(

The weekend Chocoholics Dessert Bar is just part of young pastry chef's art

Published: Thursday, July 26, 2012, 8:00 AM
Judy Walker, The Times-Picayune
It's almost 9 p.m., time for the 8 Block Kitchen and Bar to open for its weekend jazz night. While the band for local singer Anais St. John warms up with a sound check, Gonzalo "Gonzo" Jimenez, the Hyatt Regency New Orleans' 27-year-old executive pastry chef, carefully arranges bite-size desserts on slender trays.

Chef Gonzalo Jimenez Chocoholics Dessert Bar
Enlarge MATTHEW HINTON / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Hyatt's Executive Pastry Chef Gonzalo Jimenez is known for his giant chocolate sculptures and won the first Big Gateau Show at NOWFE. At Hyatt Regency he creates an all-you-can-eat Chocoholics Dessert Bar on Friday and Saturday nights as seen here in New Orleans, La., Friday, July 13, 2012. Chef Gonzalo 'Gonzo' Jimenez's chocolate buffet gallery (11 photos)
He moves the small eclairs one way, then shifts the tiny chocolate tartlets another. One end of a tray is propped on a block for maximum eye appeal. Square shot glasses full of mousse fit into the cubby holes of a small white shelf; coffee mousse goes into inch-wide chocolate cups. More cups are filled with chocolate panna cotta and cream fraiche mousseline.
Behind Jimenez, individual plates of chocolate bread puddings, beignets thickly coated with powdered sugar, small chocolate doughnuts and crepes filled with dulce de leche sit under heat lamps, ready for the crowd. An urn full of hot chocolate is ready, as are cups and warm whole and 2-percent milk to flavor with an array of chocolate lollipops.
Now the all-you-can-eat Chocoholics Dessert Bar is ready to open as well.
The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet in this space every morning, but the chocolate extravaganza is only on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. during the live jazz sets. The buffet of about 45 desserts is $22.95, or half price with a receipt from dinner at Vitascope Hall, the sports bar across the way.
Life, art and chocolate
The dulce de leche in the crepes and atop miniature chocolate pecan pies is a clue to the chef's Argentine heritage; atop the buffet, a 60-pound steampunk-style chocolate sculpture speaks volumes about his present and future.
"I make molds out of everything," Jimenez said, gesturing to the threaded bolts in the sculpture. "I go down to engineering and ask them to give me a couple of these" to cast in silicone. "I just make them out of whatever I can find."
Jimenez came to New Orleans in 2011, when the completely remodeled Hyatt Regency reopened after Hurricane Katrina. About 1,000 square feet were added to the pastry kitchens, where he supervises 23 pastry chefs. The pastry kitchen includes a chocolate room just for Jimenez: "Nobody else goes in there," he says.
This is where he plays with his toys: airbrushes, edible glitter, silicon molds.
The pastry kitchens make every bit of bread, pastry and dessert served in the big hotel, which has 1,200 rooms and four restaurants, in addition to room service. They turn out everything from hot dog buns to breakfast croissants to pies to the fennel ciabatta served in Borgne, the John Besh restaurant on the first floor overseen by executive chef Brian Landry. The day Jimenez was setting up this particular chocolate buffet, the hotel had served breakfast, lunch and dinner for a convention of 1,200.
The creative challenge
The dulce de leche crepes "are a classic back home," Jimenez said. In Argentina, he had the passion to create food, but "chefs and cooks are not a big thing there. My parents wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer." Instead, by 19, he had put himself through culinary school, then through an Ecole Lenotre in Buenos Aires.
"I was working at this hotel as a sous chef when the pastry chef just quit," Jimenez said. "I jumped into it. I didn't know what I was doing. It was a fun challenge."
He loves the creative side of desserts and breads. And his time as a savory chef influences his work, as evidenced by his dark chocolate truffles with rosemary and creme brulee with truffle oil.
After working in Patagonia, Panama and Venezuela, Jimenez came to the United States in 2009 to work in a boutique hotel in Boulder, Colo., where he learned English.
He has loved the year-plus that he's been in New Orleans.
"There's a lot going on in this city," Jimenez said. "It's different from Colorado, for sure."
He dines out often and, a former polo player, he keeps horses in Bridge City.
"It's an extremely artsy city," Jimenez said. "I love the sculpture garden" at the New Orleans Museum of Art. "I try to apply all that. I look at a lot of modern sculptures and try to apply it to what I do. A lot of it is very industrial and modern."
His art influences seem to be paying off. Jimenez's entry in the first-ever Big Gateau Show at the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience this spring won a people's choice award. Now, in his chocolate room, he's practicing for a big competition in August in Atlanta.
Rising to the occasion
In addition to chocolate and dessert spaces, there is a very large bread-baking area packed with imported ovens, an Italian dough-cutting machine, giant bags of sea salt, rustic bread bowls and much, much more. One recent day, a cook was running a spiked roller over the surface of dough in a sheet pan, making lavosh to break into rough pieces for bread baskets. Jalapeno cornbread muffins, cheesecakes and pretzels were just a few of the items on racks, ready to go to destinations around the hotel. Two shifts of bakers keep the ovens humming.
Anything and everything pastry comes out of here.
"Yesterday," the chef said, "we made 85 king cakes for a banquet."
Executive pastry chef Gonzalo Jimenez shared some of his recipes. At the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, he uses Valrhona chocolate, around 40 pounds a day. He recommends Felchin brand glaze, a coating and glazing product, for the truffle coating and the white chocolate bark.
Dark Chocolate and Rosemary Truffles
Makes 25
For ganache:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 cups couverture dark chocolate (86 percent cocoa)
3 cups dark chocolate glaze
Make the ganache filling: Heat the cream and rosemary in a saucepan, until just before boiling. Remove from heat. Pour the cream through a fine strainer.
Pour the hot cream in a bowl with the couverture dark chocolate. Let the chocolate and cream sit for 3 minutes. Then whisk until it becomes one smooth chocolate mixture without any lumps. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Use a melon baller to scoop the chocolate ganache into balls and place them on a tray. Refrigerate until they harden, about 20 minutes.
Coating and assembly: Melt the dark chocolate glaze in a double boiler.
Pull on rubber gloves and roll the cold ganache balls with your hands to make them round. Dip into the chocolate. Put truffles on a tray covered with parchment paper. Let truffles sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and then refrigerate until they harden.

White Chocolate Bark
Makes about 1-1/2 quarts
1 cup toasted almonds
1 cup pecans
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup raisins
1 cup crispy rice cereal
4 cups white glaze chocolate*
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cover the surface of a jelly roll pan with plastic wrap or a silicon mat.
Melt the white chocolate coating in a double boiler. Pour the chocolate onto the dry ingredients and mix well.
Pour the mixture on the prepared pan. Smooth out the preparation with an offset spatula.
Refrigerate until it hardens. Once chocolate is set, break into rustic pieces.
*Chef Jimenez recommends Felchin brand white glaze chocolate.
If you don't want to make homemade dulce de leche, the chef says to look at Latin markets for Nestle's La Lechera brand.
Dulce de Leche Crème Brulee
Makes 4 servings
4 cups heavy whipping cream
11 egg yolks
1-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups dulce de leche
Additional sugar for topping
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, vanilla extract, and dulce de leche. Heat until steaming, but do not boil. Remove from stove.
Bring water to a boil in a separate tea kettle, and preheat oven to 225 degrees.
In a bowl, mix egg yolks and the remaining sugar. Proceeding very slowly, pour the hot cream a little bit at a time into the egg and sugar mixture. With a hand mixer, mix at low speed until the batter becomes smooth and uniform. Pour mixture through a fine strainer to eliminate any lumps of yolk.
Pour the batter into individual-size ramekins. Working near the oven, place the ramekins in a deep pan and carefully pour the boiling water into the pan and around the ramekins to create steam. Cover the pan with foil. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the mixture is set, with a solid consistency.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Before serving, cover with sugar and caramelize with a torch.
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