Spectacular Sweets at the James Beard Foundation Gala

by | Nov 22, 2018 | News

Alicia Hinze, owner of The Buttered Tin, St. Paul, MN, and Jan Wichayanuparp, co-owner of Sweet Republic, Phoenix, AR, flew to New York in early November, joining Michael Mignano, resident executive pastry chef at The Pierre Hotel, to prepare a bountiful dessert buffet for almost 300 guests at the James Beard Foundation’s annual fundraising event.

Both women are alumni of the Women’s Leadership Program, a week-long training session the Foundation has established for culinary entrepreneurs seeking to grow their businesses. The fellowship includes ongoing guidance from mentors who provide expertise and support. The pastry chef duo’s participation channeled the theme of this year’s gala “ Rise,” celebrating “the countless ways our food community rises to meet global challenges, and make a better, more delicious sustainable food world.” The evening’s honorees, Michel Nischan of Wholesome Wave and Eric Kessler, founder of Arabella Advisors, were cited for their role in launching Beard initiatives like the Chefs Action Network and Boot Camp.

Hinze’s elegant mini treats, prototypes of the pastries made daily at the bakery/café she opened in 2013, included orange bundt cakes with elderflower glaze and lime meringues, and coconut cake with passion fruit curd, toffee bits and coconut meringue. “We’re all French pastry trained,” Hinze explained, “and we take that technique and make the same kind of cakes, cookies, and pies that you would find in your grandmother’s house in Minnesota. Pie is always a favorite, so we are featuring some of them here: brown-butter peach hand pies, banana cream pie with graham cracker crust, vanilla bean pastry cream, bananas, and whipped cream, and chocolate whoopie pies with mocha cajeta, whipped mascarpone and toasted black sesame seeds.”

Jan Wichayanuparp, after a decade in corporate finance, joined culinary school graduate Helen Jung in 2008 to open their first Sweet Republic award-winning artisan ice cream shop in Scottsdale. Now with three locations, and a devoted clientele, they hope to expand to other areas, selling a revolving palette of intriguing flavors – horchata, sweet potato marshmallow and basil lime sorbet among them. For the Beard event, there was avocado-jalapeno in miniature cones; coconut, pandan and jackfruit profiteroles, and a tour-de-force interactive chocolate-sichuan peppercorn baked Alaska.

Michael Magnano, the illustrious co-author with Michael Zebrowski of the acclaimed 544 page The Pastry Chef’s Little Black Book, published by The Chef’s Connection in 2017, is currently on his second stint as executive pastry chef at the Pierre, with a wealth of experience ranging from top New York restaurants to bakery owner. Mignano’s cornucopia of global delights included betel leaf paan ice cream with rose petal jam, and gulab jamun cheesecake, a nod to the Pierre’s Taj Hotel chain’s ownership. Mignano also captivated guests with pop favorites like caramelo sauce-dipped movie theater buttered popcorn drumsticks with candy corn crust, and his signature Mignano gourmet candy bar, an irresistible creation of cashew-macadamia nut caramel with dark chocolate ganache and black lava salt.

Not enough desserts? The aroma and sizzle of crepes Suzettes filled the air, a surprise from one of the gala sponsors, Monaco, the country that claims the origin of the classic crepes. And for one last bite, an array of chocolates from Paratti of Milano capped the evening fundraiser which netted over $120,000 for Beard Impact Programs.

All images courtesy of James Beard Foundation and taken by Clay Williams.