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working with chefs, sweet and savory

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Hi Dorie,

Thank you for taking all this time and contributing all these wonderful answers. It has been a treat to read through them and cook from your new book.

Or should I say bake...which brings me to my question.

Having worked with both pastry chefs and what what I call "regular" chefs can you comment on the differences between their approach. I'm married to a wonderful pastry chef, but I'll tell you, he's not such a great cook. He cooks like a pastry chef, if you know what I mean (follows the recipe to a T, rarely tastes, and rarely seasons the food). And though I know many "regular" chefs say they can make desserts, I have seen few who really can.

Do you think these two professions are radically different? Are pastry chefs and "regular" chefs cut from the same cloth?

Also, could you offer up a few comments on how Pierre Herme works and what, in your opinion, is his greatest strength?

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I've been told lots of times (primary by pastry chefs) that a good pastry chef can easily become a good (savory) chef, but that it often doesn't work the other way around.

I've always thought that there were fundamental tempermental/personality differences between people who like to cook and those who like to bake. Certainly, you see this difference among home cooks and bakers.

What's interesting to me is how there was -- for centuries -- such a vast difference in status between chefs and pastry chefs, particularly in France, where the organization for the kitchen brigade was developed.

The chef was always the chief (which could explain why there seem to be more screamers among chefs than among pastry chefs) and the pastry chef worked under the chef. This is still true, but over the past 25 years we've seen pastry chefs, at least in America and France, get more and more attention. Since restaurants gave up the dessert trolley and went to plated desserts, pastry chefs have been stretched to be more creative and they've been rewarded with their names on the menu.

In terms of how Pierre Herme works -- He has said he is inspired by everything around him and I know this is true. Here are two examples of "inspirations" I was present to witness:

Once, when we first began to work together, we were shopping in New York City and Pierre saw dried cherries for the first time. He bought some to take back to France and soon sent me a recipe for a coconut and cherry tart.

Another time, we were signing books together and a woman came into the shop with a baby whose name was Celeste. Pierre said he thought the name was beautiful, pulled out the notebook that he always carries and wrote down the name. About three years later, he introduced a collection of desserts called Celeste, a collection he continues to add to.

Pierre creates desserts in his head, then bakes them to confirm their taste and texture. Although all of his desserts are gorgeous, he has said that he considers the look the least important part of a dessert. (He never uses the word "decoration" and despises the use of mint leaves to pretty up a plate -- unless there is mint in the dessert.)

Finally, Pierre's lab, as his patisserie kitchen is called, is the quietest kitchen I've ever been in. He is not a screamer.

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