Welcome to the second category reveal in the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our celebration of the talent in the Dallas food and drink community. We've already taken a look at the nominees for Best Rising Star Chef. Now it's time to celebrate the mad scientists of the kitchen: pastry chefs.
The Best Pastry Chef contenders are like wizards, who take everyday ingredients and, using chemistry and imagination, magically transform them into edible works of art. It's the sweetest category of all.
Jill Bates, Fearing's
After earning two degrees — one in restaurant, hotel and institutional management from Texas Tech and another in culinary arts from San Francisco's California Culinary Academy — Jill Bates worked at restaurants in San Francisco before returning to Texas. In Dallas, she's done pastry for Dragonfly and Craft Dallas before joining Dean Fearing at Fearing's. Eater dubbed her "Hottest Chef in Dallas."
Nicolas Blouin, Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
A native of France, Nicolas Blouin started working at a bakery in his hometown of Toulouse when he was 15. He's bounced back and forth between America and Europe, from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort hotel to a series of Michelin-starred restaurants in Switzerland and France to the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Nancy Castillo, Reverie Bakeshop
Former cake decorators Nancy Castillo and Racene Mendoza blazed a trail when they opened Reverie Bakeshop in Richardson, the Dallas area's first vegan bakery, in 2013. Castillo, a vegan herself, attended Le Cordon Bleu, then worked at area bakeries such as Tu-Lu's and Petit Fours.
Stephanie Childress, Gemma
A native of Kerrville, Stephanie Childress attended the Culinary Institute of America before working for Mario Batali in Las Vegas at B&B, Enoteca and Otto. More recently, she worked at Bradley Ogden in Las Vegas. She's currently ensconced at one of Dallas' most talked-about restaurants, where her desserts favor fruit flavors and simplicity.
David Collier, Spoon
Creative and innovative, David Collier started his Dallas career at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, where he worked during the John Tesar era. He left the Mansion in 2011 and headed for the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, Virginia, where his family lives. He returned to Dallas in early 2013 to re-join Tesar as pastry chef at Spoon.
Lucia Merino, Oak
A 27-year-old native of Puerto Rico, Lucia Merino comes with a long and interesting resume that includes a degree from Johnson & Wales in Miami, as well as stints at the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort and the Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne. She moved to Dallas from Miami specifically to join the staff at Oak; her approach in pastry is to start with the classic desserts and give them a spin.
Ruben Torano, CBD Provisions
Ruben Torano comes from a pastry family: His father, Rafael, was also a pastry chef who worked at the Warwick Melrose Hotel. Ruben has been at The Joule dating back to the Charlie Palmer days and supervises not only the pastry at CBD, but also the hotel. Previously he did pastry for Nobu and Nana, where he worked for two years with chef Anthony Bombaci.
Kate Weiser, Kate Weiser Chocolate
With her combination of perfectionism and artfulness, Kate Weiser has carved out a niche as Dallas' best chocolatier. She first attracted attention for her gorgeous, gem-like creations at Chocolate Secrets on Oak Lawn Avenue. She has since gone solo, with plans to open her own eponymous spot at Trinity Groves.
Laurel Wimberg, AF+B
A native of Kansas, Laurel Wimberg is a critics' favorite who first came into the public eye as pastry chef at the splashy Craft Dallas. She did pastry for the short-lived JoJo's, then for restaurateur Shannon Wynne at Lark on the Park, before joining Consilient Hospitality, where she makes desserts for AF+B in Fort Worth and Fireside Pies.
Come celebrate the Tastemakers with us on Tuesday, May 6, at Seven for Parties in the Dallas Design District. To learn more about the event, including information about our beneficiaries, judges, participating restaurants and ticket sales, visit our Tastemakers website.