Sunday February 19, 2012
When I got to work, I found the fish monger, produce girl and a beer guy standing outside in the cold. One of ‘em with his nose pressed to the glass, peering inside the restaurant, the others hunkered down into their jackets.
“What are you guys doing here so early?”
They turned to look at me, slightly confused. Beer guy pointed toward the restaurant, “Bat-Signal’s on.”
By the time I got to the door I could see someone had left a light on in the kitchen, attracting delivery people like moths to a flame. I hefted my bag over my shoulder, shifted the waffle iron from my right to left hand (long story) and fumbled with the keys.
No sooner had I slipped through the door than my phone rang. I checked the number as I dashed down the hall to disarm the security system. Manhattan. So an ex boyfriend or an ex roommate, possibly someone from Serious Eats. With the circus of deliveries already underway, I just didn’t have the time to find out.
For the next twenty minutes, I signed invoices, received deliveries, wrote checks, and found a home for all of the chocolate, butter and duck eggs I’d ordered. The next few hours melted by, a blur of sugar and champagne (for the waffles, not me). I’d settled down at my burner with The One Pot to babysit a batch of blood orange curd. The Kitchen Aid droned in the background, whipping hot Swiss meringue that would turn into sorghum buttercream to fill the cornmeal macarons I had in the oven. My phone rang: New York again.
If my day had any time to field random calls from unknown numbers, this was probably it. I answered.
“Hi, Stella. This is Dana Cowin.”
I think I said, “Oh!”
In that instant, one hundred thousand thoughts sprang to mind in rapid succession. That I needed to start adding butter to the meringue before it cooled too much. That I should turn down the heat on my curd. That my timer for macarons had a minute and forty five seconds left. That I had the editor of Food & Wine magazine on the phone and should probably think of something else to say.
Unfortunately I only managed a deadpan, “Holy crap.”
I literally can’t tell you what happened during the next ten minutes of my life, only that when I hung up the phone, I found macarons cooling on the speed rack, a bowl of curd chilling in a water bath, the buttercream finished, portioned into 10 ounce packets and a smudge of sorghum on my phone. The culinary equivalent of highway hypnosis left me with nothing but the memory of consecutive waves of horror and relief as she spoke.
Horror: editors from Food & Wine magazine had come all the way from New York to Table 310 and tried my desserts without my knowledge. Relief: they loved them. Horror: they came during my self indulgent post-New Year’s Eve recovery menu. Relief: I’d bank on my champagne marshmallows any day. Horror: I was outnumbered forty-nine to one. Relief: the words, “You’re one of our Best New Pastry Chefs.”
I hung up the phone, stunned. I’m still stunned.
Food & Wine has named 10 Best New Chefs every year since 1988, but has never had a category for pastry chefs before. To say it’s a “huge honor” to be inducted into their inaugural pastry class seems trite, but I don’t know how else to describe it.
I’m grateful that Krim and Andrea had a vision for a restaurant like Table 310 in a little town like Lexington. For their willingness to give me free reign in the kitchen. That I have coworkers who’ll plate my desserts for me every night, with great care. That Food & Wine thinks I make “fun, whimsical, homey desserts” worthy of going toe to toe with the architectural works of art coming out of big city kitchens.
I can’t quantify it. I can only try to live up to it, one dessert at a time.
Recipe: nut-free cornmeal macarons with sorghum buttercream
Update: the May issue of Food & Wine has now come and gone from newsstands so for those who missed it, here’s a capture of the page with my chocolate sprinkle covered debut.
© 2012 Food & Wine Magazine, photo by Ethan Hill
97 comments and counting
Feb 19, 2012 · 12:33 AM
This post made me laugh out loud. Congratulations!!! It doesn’t surprise me a bit that you earned this honor.
· bethany actually · bethanyactually.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 12:49 AM
I love this post!! I know I said it already, but I’ll say it again: you deserve it!! Woohoo!
· Julie @ Willow Bird Baking · willowbirdbaking.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 10:24 AM
Reading this as I have my morning coffee and I am just smiling so hard and am so happy for you! Congrats dear, well deserved!
· Nelly Rodriguez · www.cookingwithbooks.blogspot.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 10:27 AM
I missed your post! Just seeing it this morning. I am so happy to hear your wonderful news, Stella!!!! I enjoy following you on Twitter and love your blog. I wish you continued success and every good thing. Hugs
· Michelle Jaffee · www.sweetandsimple.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 10:40 AM
I’m so happy to see how much recognition you’re getting Congratulations!!!!!! I am having the hardest time explaining how truly excited and friggin’ thrilled I am for you, so I hope all of those exclamation points will do! You’re awesome!
· Kaitlin · www.whisk-kid.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 10:43 AM
@LH, thank you so much for that, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my recipes.
@bethany, haha, there was some stunned laughter on my part at the time too. Thank you.
@Julie, thanks again, my friend.
@Bobbie, there are never too many exclamation points!! Thank you so much.
@Sandra, so glad you’ve enjoyed. Thank you.
@Nelly, surprise, surprise, you having coffee? Is bacon there too? Thanks so much; I’ve got your card pinned to my fridge. A lovely reminder that my twitter friends are also my real friends.
@Michelle, thank you so much! I felt a little worried that this post would just be “old news” since I’ve already mentioned it on twitter & facebook; glad to know it’s still news for some.
@Kaitlin, that means so much coming from you. You were one of the very first people I met online after I started BraveTart. Thank you so much for all the love and support since then.
Feb 19, 2012 · 11:00 AM
Congratulations!!!! You should relish in the moment and be super proud. I’m a fairly new follower but love your recipes and Twitter chat take care!
· Gerry @ Foodness Gracious · www.foodnessgracious.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 12:59 PM
amazing job Stella! Holy cow girl what a freaking accomplishment. That’s so damn wonderful and you deserve it. Cheers to all your success and all the future success that you’ll have with your baking.
· Kimberly (unrivaledkitch) · unrivaledkitch.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 2:23 PM
Great job Stella!
I’m so excited for you
So very very very excited
· Ilan · www.ironwhisk.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 5:36 PM
Of COURSE you’re one of the Best Pastry Chefs. Never a doubt in my mind. XOX
· eatlivetravelwrite · www.eatlivetravelwrite.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 5:40 PM
Congratulations! What an honor and a thrill. Totally in awe that you were somehow able to still work while on the phone with the editor. That must have been so surreal!
· Michelle · www.delishiono.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 10:14 PM
· Lindsay · www.marthaiaint.com
Feb 19, 2012 · 10:46 PM
Wow, that is the most creative macaron yet! Looks very intriguing!
· Kiri W. · www.healthyfoodietravels.net
Feb 20, 2012 · 10:01 AM
@Gerry, thanks for taking the time to say hello! Thank you so much.
@Kimberly, I’m still totally freaked out. I’m not even sure our exec chef even knows…
@Ilan, thanks for the enthusiasm! I’m excited too.
@Ben, thank you sir!
@Mardi, oh, you darling. Thanks you so much.
@Michelle, it was surreal; truly I have no memory of dong those things. I was so stunned….
@Lindsay, thank you!
@Kiri, they’re definitely tricky (I know, like we need trickier macarons), but so tasty it doesn’t matter if they crack…
@Tom, aw, thank you.
Feb 20, 2012 · 11:58 AM
Congratulations again Stella! I’m so happy you made it! You definitely deserve it your treats are definitely da bomb.
And also congrats on finishing all those tasks while on the phone! Autodrive can be a life saver hehe. And these macarons look reallllly good. I might just have to make a batch before I go to England on Wednesday. And eat them all before then. Because I would never leave some poor macarons sitting all lonesome on the counter.
· Eve · sweeteves.wordpress.com
Feb 20, 2012 · 12:11 PM
#1 Congrats! Not that any of us had a single doubt, of course!
#2 I got a new email address, and in order to ensure I kept getting your updates I had to first delete my old email and OH! your farewell message is just too heart-rending!! So I just HAD to say: I haven’t left! Just moved! Haha and congrats again
· Michal · thehumidity.blogspot.com/
Feb 20, 2012 · 6:46 PM
@Eve, it would be cruel to leave macarons alone while you’re gone….
@Michal, hahaha, that’s too funny. Glad to know you’re here to stay! Thanks so much for the kind words.
@kelly, I’ll have to whip you up a batch!! Thanks so much.
Feb 20, 2012 · 10:50 PM
Wow!! Congratulations! When I first came here and started reading your blog and seeing your food, I knew you were amazing. A girl that would never snub sprinkles or a pop tart….Love it!!
CONGRATULATIONS….. You are a brilliant lady who makes me laugh and drool all at the same time!
Feb 21, 2012 · 8:34 PM
@Crash, aw, you’re one of my “oldest” commeters; thanks for always coming out of the woodwork with a kind word. Thank you! I bet it would be funny to watch you laugh and drool at the same time.
@Hezzah, that’s so wonderful to hear. I’m glad you’re enjoying some inspired time in the kitchen and putting your own touch on everything. Thank you.
@Uncle C, ha! It comes full circle then. I’m headed up to NYC on Sunday, actually! Can’t wait.
Feb 22, 2012 · 1:05 AM
Awesome news Stella! I have always appreciated your blog and from the very first day I found it I felt like we should all fasten our seat-belts. I can’t even imagine where you are headed next! Thanks for sharing it all with us.
· Terris · www.freeeatsfood.com
Feb 22, 2012 · 7:49 AM
Congrats Stella. You so deserve this! Glad they’ve introduced a pastry chef category! Good for you, and lucky for Table 310 to have such a talented chef with them!
· Deeba · passionateaboutbakng.com
Feb 22, 2012 · 7:34 PM
congratulations, you’ve taught us so much!
· ravenouscouple · theravenouscouple.com
Feb 22, 2012 · 7:44 PM
@Terris, you really have been here from the beginning!! Thanks so much for your support, it means a lot to me,
@Deeba, it’s really huge news for the pastry world in general, that F&W’s announced this new category. Pastry chefs do such different work from the savory guys and it’s so exciting that is finally be acknowledged. I’m humbled to be a part of this first class.
@Uncle C, I will let you know what sort of adventures I get into.
@ravenouscouple, thank you so much for the kind words!
Feb 22, 2012 · 8:45 PM
Congratulations! Somehow, I missed the news on Twitter & FB. Your recipes are consistently awesome. If I ever end up in Lexington, I will make it a point to try it in person. Until then, I’ll keep cooking in my kitchen. Kudos!
· Melissa · nytefalle.com/blog
Feb 24, 2012 · 3:06 AM
· Jessie · fabbricantidisogni.wordpress.com
Feb 25, 2012 · 12:53 PM
@Melissa, thanks so much! Please keep me posted if you ever make the trip to Lexington, it’d be so lovely to meet you.
@justme, I stand corrected.
@martha, awww, you’re too sweet!
@Jessie, thank you!
@gretchen, I appreciate it!
Feb 25, 2012 · 4:08 PM
What a great story! Congrats!
· Rachel · http://www.coconutandlime.com
Feb 26, 2012 · 9:39 AM
OH MY GOODNESS! Congratulations! I have to say, my stomach literally did a backflip reading your post. That is such unbelievably exciting news! And you managed to finish your curd and macarons and put away the duck eggs. Impressive.
· christine [the sugar apothecary] · www.thesugarapothecary.com/
Feb 27, 2012 · 10:41 PM
Wow, what an inspiration!
· AmyRuth · www.AmyRuthBakes.com
Feb 28, 2012 · 5:27 PM
@AmyRuth, aww, thanks so much!!
Feb 29, 2012 · 11:33 AM
that’s amazing! congratulations! i can’t wait to taste your desserts someday!
· stephanie · kitchenfrolic.blogspot.com
Feb 29, 2012 · 5:36 PM
@kelli, thank you dear!
@stephanie, oh, I hope you do someday. That would be fun!
Mar 01, 2012 · 2:30 PM
Amazing! Congrats, I hope one day I’ll make it to Table 310 to try some of your awesome creations, until then Ill keep trying to recreate them here at home.
· Missie · www.cassidyphotography.com
Mar 02, 2012 · 9:01 AM
I don’t know you. I don’t know your restaurant. I don’t know your desserts…but my heart is sitting here with my cup of morning Jo singing your praises! Congratulations to you!
· Snippets of Thyme (Sarah) · rileymadel.blogspot.com
Mar 02, 2012 · 8:17 PM
A huge congrats! And I had a similar experience today at work, although I must admit that the person on the other end of the phone wasn’t nearly so wonderful as an editor from Food & Wine. But I looked up from the phone call to realize I’d poured a batch of marshmallow eggs into their molds and I’d started the rose divinity. How did that happen? I wish I knew…
· The Cozy Herbivore · thecozyherbivore.blogspot.com
Mar 04, 2012 · 10:43 AM
Amazing! I just recently came across your site & although I must admit that I came for the macarons, which by the way I tried 3xs and failed miserably ( I got about 6 good ones) I just love your homemade approach to everything. I thought I was the only one who liked to complicate her life Congrats Chef! and keep up the great work!
· Arlene · dessertsanddelectables.blogspot.com/
Mar 04, 2012 · 1:05 PM
@Missie, oh, you’ll have to let me know if you ever make it to Lexington!
@Sarah, thank you so much! I’ve been so grateful for everyone online I’ve been able to share the news with. Thanks for reading.
@The Cozy Herbivore, rose divinity sounds delightful! It’s funny how instincts take over, like when you’re driving for hours on end and don’t remember the miles in between.
@Arlene, thank you so much and welcome to BraveTart! The cornmeal macarons are definitely advanced level, they took a while for me to master, so don’t beat yourself up. As “training wheels” you can use half almonds half cornmeal and that definitely makes them a little less daunting. Good luck!
Mar 06, 2012 · 3:43 PM
YAY! Congratulations Stella, I think Food & Wine got it absolutely right!
· isabel · rollingpinsandneedles.wordpress.com/
Mar 06, 2012 · 5:24 PM
@isabel, you sweet dear, thanks so much.
Mar 09, 2012 · 10:20 AM
@Ashley, Thank you for the kind words. I’ll let you know how I turn out when I finish growing up.
@shucky dern, BraveTart: The Movie! I feel people would begin to get restless after the intense, 30 minute ice cream churning scene….
@egold, if you ever make it out this way, shoot me an email or something in advance. I’d love to know!
Mar 19, 2012 · 12:04 AM
Hi, I found your recipe and your recipe is better than a lot of others. The Macaroon taste really good. I didnt like any artificial food coloring so I used dragon fruit skin juice for color. It turns out really nice pink color but the juice kind of sticky, I put 2 tbsp in. But the macaroon has no feet, I really want to know it is the color that affect my macaroon or other reason.
Mar 19, 2012 · 12:22 PM
@JaneGi, when it comes to macarons, an excess liquid you add (especially from acidic ingredients like fruit) can change the final product significantly. In this case, I’d definitely blame the addition of the fruit juice for causing your macaron troubles. But I’m glad to hear it had a good taste!
Mar 20, 2012 · 3:26 AM
Holy cow! Congratulations! Undoubtedly well deserved.
· Bonnie · www.bakecookeatmove.blogspot.com/
Mar 20, 2012 · 6:43 PM
@Bonnie, awww, thank you so much.
Mar 23, 2012 · 10:43 PM
Congratulations Stella! Although I’ve never had the chance to experience your artistry first hand (I very much hope to someday though)your imagination, humor, and love for your work come through on every page of bravetart- it’s a real treat to read. You have a big fan here!
Mar 24, 2012 · 12:59 PM
@Caitlin, thanks so much for taking the time to let me know. It means a lot to me! I hope you can come visit Table 310 someday so I can thank you with pastries.
Mar 29, 2012 · 3:07 PM
Belated congratulations!! Wonderful news. I’ve really enjoyed catching up with your blog archives.
My friend and I are excited to be making macarons for the first time this weekend (Macaron Sunday!!) and i’ve printed out your recipes, myths, commandments and inspirational posts as our source material. Thank you!
Mar 29, 2012 · 8:23 PM
@Jill, thanks so much! Macaron Sunday with a friend sounds like a total blast, have fun!! It’s like learning to ride a bike, don’t be scared to fall off. At least with macarons you’ll have delicious cookies instead of a scraped knee.
Apr 02, 2012 · 5:45 PM
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again CONGRATULATIONS. Also, can I come play in your kitchen with you sometime?! You make me want to work in a restaurant again. I miss it.
· Ashley · notwithoutsalt.com
Apr 03, 2012 · 5:19 PM
@Ashley, just remember, I only blog the fun parts. But seriously, thanks so much. You’re welcome in the pastry dungeon anytime.
Apr 07, 2012 · 5:28 PM
I just got my May edition of Food and Wine in the mail today, and lo and behold like divine providence the first page it opened to set before my eyes your hazlenut brown butter brownie recipe. And this lady with the sprinkles on her arm was a fellow Lexingtonian? Be still my heart. I found your blog almost immediately, and now have more pastry recipes to try over the next year than I would have ever thought possible. Thank you for making my day, and congratulations on your accolades (next time I’m back home, I’m definitely popping into Table Three Ten…how this place escaped my notice before is beyond me.)
Apr 08, 2012 · 11:59 AM
@Steve, ahhh! Thanks so much for finding me out! Give me a heads up next time you’re in the neighborhood, would love to say hello. Go Team Lex!
Apr 09, 2012 · 7:39 PM
@Stella, you know I absolutely WILL give you a head’s up. I am probably visiting my mother in Richmond this summer. I can’t wait…I might have known Lexington would FINALLY start developing a food scene once I leave. But hey, I’ve got Charleston, SC just a couple of hours away from me, they know how to do it right too.
Apr 10, 2012 · 11:28 AM
@Steve, the progress in Lex has been slow to be sure. You really haven’t missed much, I promise. If you only come to Lexington for short visits, you can preserve the illusion that it’s a food haven loaded with amazing restaurants and you won’t get bored of the short list of great places to go. If you moved back, that sense would wear off much faster, haha.
Apr 14, 2012 · 8:35 PM
Congratulations on being chosen one of Food and Wine’s Best New Pastry Chefs. It is quite an honor but from what I’ve read on your blog, it’s well deserved.
· Valerie · www.valeriehjohnson.com
Apr 15, 2012 · 12:10 PM
@Valerie, thank you so much, it’s a little surreal!
Apr 18, 2012 · 1:17 PM
Stella! I am late late in commenting, but since I just found out you had this blog, I kind of have an excuse. I am so honored to know you and to count you as a friend, and also to have been able to collaborate with you. You are an incredible, creative chef and this is such a deserved honor. I love that they found you all the way out here in Kentucky. Can’t wait to come in to your place to savor more of your creations, and I am excited to be able to actually eat one of our wedding cakes next week! I never get to do that! heartfelt congrats xxoo
Apr 18, 2012 · 6:51 PM
@Judie, thank you oh so much, sweet lady. Who’s photographing the wedding? Maybe if I can get a copy of a nice cake photo I can blog about our collaboration!
Apr 26, 2012 · 10:53 AM
Congratulations!! It’s funny that I’m just now seeing this post, as I’ve already received my copy of Food & Wine AND made your brownies. They are to die for and I bow down to your greatness!
Today I will be making macarons and came here (to your blog) for inspiration…thank you for that and for sharing your wonderful gifts with us!
· Joanne · www.bakinghappy.com
Apr 26, 2012 · 10:58 PM
@Joanne, hahaha. I’m glad you made those brownies! Thanks so much for the kind words, I wish you all the macaron success in the world. Mastering them is like learning to ride a bike, but instead of scraped knees, you get cookies instead.
May 01, 2012 · 10:54 AM
Stella, thanks for debunking a few myths. When our local Waitrose started selling Raymond Blanc macarons, I just had to look up recipes and give it a go, boy, I didn’t realise how many shots I’d have to take to get it right. I’ve bought books, been on a one day course, and been through many online recipes and finally, thanks to your blog, I’ve nailed it. Thank you so much. Now is the time to diversify and experiment. The only thing I still have a doubt about is that, at the temperature of baking that you recommend (and yes, I do have an oven thermometer!), the biscuits start to brown a little. Any advice on that would be welcome.
May 01, 2012 · 7:22 PM
@Dave, I’m glad to help! Are the macarons that turn brown also colored? Many food colorings are not heat resistant and discolor in the oven; especially Wilton food gels. Let me know if that helps in the mystery….
Jun 05, 2012 · 10:13 AM
@Hex, aw, thanks bro! How the heck have you been?!
Aug 25, 2012 · 5:12 AM
Not only are you a stellar storyteller, you are a star pastry chef. Bravo!
· The Ninja Baker · ninjabaking.com
Aug 25, 2012 · 6:27 PM
Arigatou, Ninja san!
Oct 03, 2012 · 1:49 PM
As someone who has moved from the kitchen to the computer, has trained for years and years in the art of pastry, patisserie and more, who has a love of Japanese artistry (like you I have spent time out there), I’m absolutely honoured and privileged to read your posts. Your macaron recipe is my only macaron recipe and the variations on it that I create I do so with your guidelines in mind. You are constantly inspiring, amazing and jaw dropingly wonderful. I cannot say how pleased I am that your magnificence in the world of pastry has finally been recognised beyond your fellow kitchen slaves and bloggers and elevated into the world of awards and high praise. A very well deserved award indeed. <3 Natalie
· Amazing Bakery · amazingbakery.co.uk
Oct 04, 2012 · 9:52 AM
Hi Natalie! Ahhh, I am so happy to hear you dig my macaron recipe! Thank you so, so much for the kind words. Even eight months later, it still feels like such a shock. I will never get over the fact that somehow I was found out, baking in my obscure corner of America. I feel so lucky because I know how many people are doing the exact same thing, without any grand reward.
Oct 24, 2012 · 11:04 PM
Aw, Carey, thank you so much! It’s been surreal to say the least.
Nov 19, 2012 · 10:36 PM
I have mixed the macaroon cookies but haven’t cooked them yet. I bought ground up almonds and sifted them before adding to mixture. My question: why did the almonds not ground as fine as they should and still have the brown speckle look. They have been grounded and sifted. What did I do wrong? the mounds will have brown speckles in them.
Nov 19, 2012 · 11:01 PM
Hi peggyp. Speckles in the macarons are perfectly normal! Sifting doesn’t remove them, it only eliminates particles that are too large. The almond skin (the flecks you see) is paper thin and will definitely make it through. Nothing to worry about. Hope they bake out nicely.
Nov 25, 2012 · 8:37 PM
Very awesome. I hope to make one of your recipes over the holiday. It was nice to meet you at the Incredible Food Show and thank you for sharing some great tips on making cakes. I would love to photograph anything of yours (at no charge!). I have been trying to get acquainted around Lexington as a food photographer. Thanks Stella.
Nov 25, 2012 · 9:54 PM
Hey Katrina! It was awesome to meet you too! I’ve got so many pals in the Lexington food blogger scene, I’d love to introduce you!
Nov 26, 2012 · 9:37 PM
Cool! That would be really neat. I can be contacted through my site/email. Thanks again!
Nov 29, 2012 · 9:44 AM
I’ll let ‘em know!
Apr 08, 2013 · 9:55 AM
Wonderful post! Very inspiring! I’ve been enjoying your blog and recipes and I’m so happy for you! Congratulations and enjoy!
· siverbaker · www.stoutsilverlabs.com
Apr 08, 2013 · 5:43 PM
Aw, thanks Dorothy! The last year has been such a wild ride.
May 17, 2013 · 2:41 PM
I’m way late, but what an incredible story!! Congratulations!!
· Melissa Klotz · www.nowyourecook.in
May 17, 2013 · 7:31 PM
Aw, thanks Melissa! Even this far down the road, the encouragement means a lot, thank you!!