MEET THE TASTEMAKERS
San Antonio’s 5 best pastry chefs always rise to the occasion
It has always been a mystery that pastry chefs don’t get more recognition. Making a great dessert requires a knack for precision, an eye for design, and an encyclopedic knowledge of flavors. Sweets are the crescendo of the meal, the final determiner of whether dinner is just food or a sumptuous feast.
The five nominees for the CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Pastry Chef of the Year certainly know the difference. Each can turn sugar, flour, and butter into high art, but only one can take the cake. Read on to learn more, then join us at our annual party on May 18 at the Briscoe Museum to find out who is the smartest cookie. Buy tickets now before they sell out.
Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell — Bakery Lorraine
This dynamic duo first gained fame from their multicolored Parisian macarons. But they are just as adept at the other French classics. The kouign amann pairs its buttery heft with a vibrant lemon curd, the canelé is lavished with a bit of rum, and the opera cake jolts with espresso-brandy syrup. The techniques are exacting enough to satisfy any purists. The flavors are pure libertine.
Elise Russ — Clementine
This Castle Hill neighborhood gem calls its desserts “the best parts.” That’s no exaggeration. Russ strikes just the right balance between comfort and innovation. In her hands, a carrot cake keeps the best parts of its church social roots with decadent cream cheese icing. Candied pineapple and coconut ice cream deconstruct the idea without taking away an iota of the hospitality.
Jenn Riesman — Rooster Crow Baking Co.
A veteran of Supper at Hotel Emma and Silo Restaurant Group, Reisman has now struck out on her own. The move has sparked some of the city’s most electrifying desserts. The accomplished chef knows that subtlety isn’t always a virtue when it comes to sweets. Instead, these pies, cookies, and pastries bang, bam, and bap as loudly as a Batman sound effect.
José and David Cáceres — La Panadería
How does a nearly decade-old business still draw weekday lines? By serving some of the most innovative pan dulce in the country. Case in point is the croncha — a flaky croissant dough topped with the crumbly icing of a concha. It’s alchemical, addictive, and just one small trick in these pastry brothers’ hats.
Sofia Tejeda — Hotel Emma
An alum of Mixtli and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, Tejeda was the first San Antonian to be nominated as “Outstanding Pastry Chef” by the James Beard Foundation. It’s easy to see why. Her dishes combine cultural specificity (see the German and Mexican influences) with a luxury fitting of the boutique hotel. We think Emma Koehler — the property's namesake — would be proud.