Dessert is always considered the sidekick to savory food and I don't know how I feel about that.
I like thinking of dessert as more of a continuation to your meal and not necessarily just the end of it. I think it comes from a place of wanting to work closely with the savory side of kitchen, to have coherence in the kitchen. I don't want pastry to be a static stand alone element of a restaurant. I want it to be fluid.
I've worked in restaurants where the it's strictly pastry versus savory in the past, but it doesn't have to be that way. In the way I run the pastry program at Lazy Bear in San Francisco, I try to have these two categories not be too separate.
It's all part of the same experience because they go hand in hand. When I worked at AQ, we had an open kitchen and the pastry station was right by the chef's counter. I looked out the window every day and I noticed that a lot of people don't even bother looking at the dessert menu. If they did, they wanted something chocolate 70 percent of the time. But then again, I'm guilty of never ordering dessert too. Why is this?
Even in a tasting menu, dessert always plays a smaller role. You are always going to have more savory courses and then you're going to have one dessert; we have 12 savory courses and then three dessert courses here at Lazy Bear. I understand that this is the way it is but that is an uneven combination any way you slice it. I think it would be rad if tasting menus were equalized and it was split right down the middle: half savory and half sweet.
The first couple of so-called dessert courses don't necessarily have to be all sweet; they could be pretty savory with a couple of sweet elements. I think that it would be fucking awesome! I would love to do that. That [now shuttered] restaurant Tailor in New York by Sam Mason kind of did that. I regret that I was never able to eat there while they were open but he did things like pork with miso and butterscotch—stuff like that.
My desserts are kind of like my taste in music and my wardrobe. I definitely consider myself to be a little witchy in the way I dress every day, and I love the Misfits and Black Flag. I was just listening to the soundtrack for the Only Lovers Left Alive and I ended up making a dessert with black sesame, cassis, cocoa, and charcoal (which is on the current menu). Though in hindsight an older dessert I made with wood-smoked milk and tobacco-coffee-cacao nib crumble called "Coffee and Cigarettes" might have been more appropriate for that album since it was a Jim Jarmusch movie and all that.
But then again I am obsessed with "Trap Queen." Thus, I would rather make a dish that is open to interpretation and makes you think about what it might be than establishing something concrete.
I'm attracted to gothic romanticism. I guess, in a weird way, I apply that to almost all aspects of my life. I like making things that stick with you, that don't look like typical desserts. And sometimes that means everything being really black like the color of my heart. I made a macaron once that was different shades of pink (hibiscus, rose, and beet) and it hurt my soul a little bit.
All of this just pushes me to work harder to to change people's notions of what dessert is.
As told to Javier Cabral