This LA Pastry Chef Believes All Desserts Deserve An Ungodly Amount of Salt

Bon Appetit - Wed May 18 18:22

What’s your favorite meal to eat (or make) when stoned?
Anything crunchy. On 4/20, I held a kickback at home and I have this one-foot-square grill. It’s the smallest thing ever, I found it at Savers, the thrift store. I put a quarter sheet tray over it and made quesadillas. I asked everyone I invited to bring something to put in them. Also, instant noodles—I add vegetables and a really beautiful egg on top, and that’s a go-to stoney baloney meal. The last thing would be ice cream, because I’m lucky to have a bunch of talented ice cream makers as friends. Right now, I have a honey-mezcal sorbet from Chainsaw in my freezer. And my friend Michelle of Pints Creamery makes an amazing black sesame ice cream. I love eating trashy ice cream, too. I always have at the ready two pints of something that I can snack on.

Who is your favorite food person to follow on Instagram?
I love Mina Park, she’s @ninetynin.e on Instagram. She makes these amazing whipped cream cakes. She made an espresso-soaked sponge cake with smooth chestnut purée and cocoa-dusted mascarpone ruffles, which is really similar to something I did. They happened at different times, and we didn’t have any interaction with each other. I love the Instagram internet space for pastry information sharing.

Who is your dream culinary collaborator?
Brooks Headley of Superiority Burger, the vegetarian (but mostly vegan) burger joint in NYC. I’m just waiting for that call. I’ve been adding vegan recipes to my repertoire because a lot of Vietnamese desserts are naturally vegan and gluten-free. They use rice for everything. They use coconut milk for everything.

What’s the most underrated ingredient for baking?
Salt. It’s really hard to make something too salty. Let's say you have a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe: two eggs, half a pound of butter, and usually one to two teaspoons of salt. What if you made it a full tablespoon? Would it be delicious? Would it be too salty? Probably not. It’s worth it to make that same recipe five different times at 31, 32, 33, 34, and 35 grams of salt, to see if you hit a money spot. Realizing how to hit that ceiling, and how cause and effect works, that’s what makes you a good cook.

When you need to get away for a quick vacation, where are you going?
Ojai. It’s a two-hour-away oasis. I always go by myself. I don't really allow myself to do stuff by myself, I've got a dog and I've got a partner I'm in love with, so it's really hard to find those moments where I don’t consider anyone else. I've learned the importance of getting away and saying very few words, and letting the surroundings envelop you. Ojai is the best place for that.

Which LA restaurants are your go-to for comfort food?
Yang’s Kitchen in Alhambra. If I'm really sad and need uplifting, really good food, I go there. I love Woon for their beef noodles and their chicken wings. I live within walking distance to Mandarin Noodle House, and it’s the best orange chicken I’ve ever had. Before I worked at Pearl River Deli, I was a customer there, and they were with me when my dog was lost for an entire day. I drafted a missing dog poster, it was all over Instagram, and it was all over Nextdoor. They made me two wonton soups, and I took them home. I ate them, I cried, I went to sleep, and then at two in the morning someone called and had found my dog. That wonton soup is still one of my favorite things on the menu.

What song do you have on repeat right now?
Money Dance by DUCKWRTH. It’s really fun to drive to and it always puts me in a better mood than I'm in before listening to it.

Which fruit thrills you the most to see in season?
Passion fruit. Its season starts in August and the fruits themselves last for a long time because all of the pulp is airtight. They’re an invasive species, so when the vine is alive, it takes over, it takes up space, it weaves in between other things, and the fruits just hang and look like dinosaur eggs. It’s my favorite fruit, it’s really easy to incorporate into anything, it has more vitamin C than lemons or oranges. It’s nice to amp things up with passion fruit. It just hits all of the notes.