Among all the bests we honor in our 2018 Tastemaker Awards, our annual event honoring the best in local food and drink, none is sweeter than this: Best Pastry Chef.
These are the chefs who combine artistry with precision, who spin egg whites into buoyant souffles, who manufacture magic out of basic ingredients like butter and flour.
Other chefs may impress, but the pastry chef always gets the last word.
We'll celebrate them and all of our other nominees at our Tastemaker Awards party April 19 at Sixty Five Hundred, with food tastings from chefs, and cocktails made with bourbon from sponsor Woodford Reserve. Tickets are on sale now for $55, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Bonton Farms.
Here are our 10 nominees for Best Pastry Chef in Dallas:
Joe Baker, Joe The Baker
The aptly-named Baker has to be the only pastry chef who is a former soldier in the Army. He graduated from L’Academie de Cuisine outside Washington, DC, and has worked at restaurants such as Cityzen in DC, Los Canarias and Ostra in San Antonio, and the Mansion on Turtle Creek and Spoon in Dallas. He's also appeared on Food Network shows such as Sweet Genius and Beat Bobby Flay. His specialty is French macarons and viennoiserie, which he sells at the Coppell Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 am-12 pm.
Jill Bates, Fearing's
Having earned degrees in management and culinary arts, Bates has insight on both sides of the hospitality industry that have made her an asset. She's worked at Fearing's since 2007, following stints in San Francisco, and then in Dallas at Dragonfly, Craft Dallas, and the Mansion on Turtle Creek. Her desserts are known for their complexity, with multiple components and creative flavors. Current offerings include strawberry frozen yogurt with yogurt sponge cake and pistachio mousse; and lemon creme fraiche custard with graham cracker ice cream.
Keith Cedotal, Joule Dallas/Mirador
A native of San Antonio, Cedotal went to culinary school in Dallas, and has worked at restaurants in both cities. He was part of the opening team at Sustenio in San Antonio, then in Dallas, worked at Park Restaurant on Henderson Avenue, Malai Kitchen, and and Uchi Dallas. He's been at the Joule since 2017, where he does all the desserts for CBD Provisions, Americano, and Mirador. A highly inventive chef, his chocolate soft-serve ice cream was one of the best things served at the 2017 Tastemaker Awards, and he'll be back at the 2018 event.
Eric Cobb, Knife Dallas
A native of Alabama who studied culinary training and pastry at the Culinard in Birmingham, Cobb got an even more extensive education at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Colinas, where he worked with pastry master Randy Gehman for seven years. After Gehman retired, Cobb joined the staff at Knife, where he matches the standard set by chef John Tesar. He's persistent in trying new techniques such as molecular gastronomy in creations such as sweet potato tart with sorghum and pecan; Brie cheesecake with cherry sorbet; and his popular signature chocolate and coffee, with chocolate sponge and milk chocolate coffee ice cream.
Kristina Kent, Omni Dallas
A graduate of The Arts Institute of Dallas with an associate degree in baking and pastry, Kent was a pastry cook for Legends Hospitality at Cowboys Stadium during the 2010-2011 football season, when she helped prepare more than 90,000 pastries for Super Bowl XLV. That's a trial by fire. She also worked at Chocolate Secrets where she oversaw creation of the bonbon new flavors and taught chocolate classes. She joined the Omni in 2012 as a pastry cook, was promoted to sous chef in 2013, and pastry chef in July 2014.
Erika Lucio, Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Lucio took her education to the next level while working with chef David Collier at chef John Tesar restaurants Spoon Bar & Kitchen and Knife, where she learned about balancing flavors in a dessert the same way you would a savory dish. Her desserts at Hubbell & Hudson Bistro in The Woodlands earned accolades such as "spectacular." She joined Five Sixty in 2017, where she wows with plated desserts and specials such as rhubarb cake with blueberry ice cream.
Corrado Palmieri, Palmieri Cafe
Palmieri's shop at the Dallas Farmers Market is bringing a unique slice of sweets to Dallas. A native of Italy, Palmieri studied baking with a chef in his hometown of Lecce, learning pastries that were a local signature. Cannoncino are tubes made of crisp puffy dough and filled with lemon-vanilla or milk chocolate cream. Pasticciotto are crust-enclosed tarts, sometimes called "pusties," filled with either ricotta cheese or egg custard. He makes his own gelato with Italian ingredients including Sicilian pistachios and hazelnuts from Piedmont, and also makes a fine espresso.
Ricchi Sanchez, Bullion
A native of Beaumont, Sanchez has notched high-flying assignments, here and abroad. He was part of the opening team for The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Los Vegas, where he worked as pastry chef for five years at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire. He trained in Paris at the noted Pierre Gagnaire restaurant at Hotel Balzac. He was at the Nobu Hotel and Restaurant at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, then came to Dallas to help open Flora Street Café by Stephan Pyles, which won numerous accolades. He joined Bullion when it opened in 2017.
Marco Solano, Up On Knox
A native of Costa Rica, Solano has had a variety of assignments around Dallas, from Mercat Bistro to Bird Bakery at the Royal Blue Grocery to hotels such as the Stoneleigh and the Park Cities Hilton. He's accumulated a broad range of skills ranging from fine pastries to the art of baking. At Up on Knox, he covers everything from breakfast pastries to desserts, including a nondairy coconut panne cotta; he's also making his own sticky buns and croissants.
Rose Valdivia, Town Hearth
When you're working with a larger-than-life personality like Nick Badovinus, chef at Town Hearth, it's easy to get overlooked. But pastry chef Rose Valdivia is making desserts that earn attention, including a statuesque mud pie, a massive devil's food cake, and a Napolean called "The King," with three layers of puff pastry interspersed with peanut butter and fresh banana slices, topped with a browned meringue crust.