Our nominees for the 2021 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Pastry Chef of the Year understand the importance of ending a meal properly. These 10 talented individuals all turn out memorable sweets along with savory breads, kolaches, and more.
Remember, doughs are temperamental. They require both creativity and chemistry to achieve the proper result. With that in mind, it would be disrespectful not to order these chefs’ creations.
Who will win? Find out July 22 at the Tastemaker Awards party. We’ll dine on bites from this year’s nominated restaurants before emcee Bun B reveals the winners. Buy tickets now.
Alejandra Salas - Bludorn
This veteran of restaurants such as Bar Boulud and the French Laundry has quickly made her mark on the city’s pastry chef. Whether diners opt for the showstopping baked Alaska, any of her house made ice creams, or seasonal specials like strawberry shortcake, they can be certain they’ll display precise technique and elegant presentation. As Bludorn approaches its first anniversary, we can’t wait to see what Salas does next.
Chris Leung - Cloud 10 Creamery
Even as national ice cream players make their push into Houston, Cloud 10 remains a homegrown favorite. Leung’s obsession with quality ensures each flavor has its own base, and the switch to centralized production facility has allowed Cloud 10 to expand its retail presence and introduce more cakes and novelties. Whatever the future may hold, Cloud 10 staples like nutella with marshmallows and cafe sua da remain consistent crowd pleasers
Drew Gimma - Bread Man Baking Company
Whether at Common Bond or Squable, Gimma established his reputation for carefully crafted breads. Now, he’s helping power Bread Man’s growth from a small start-up to a regional player that’s sold in Whole Foods locations across Texas. As the company prepares to move into a massive, 40,000-square-foot bakery, Gimma’s expertise will be essential in ensuring the loaves taste just as good as when founder Tasos Katasounis made them at home.
Grayson Skupin - Nobie's/The Toasted Coconut
No one’s saying that the best part of a meal at either Nobie’s or The Toasted Coconut is pie, but anyone who doesn’t finish their meals with pie has missed out on an essential component of dining at either establishment. Skupin’s offerings run towards classic flavors like banana graham and pumpkins — executed at a level that makes the whole cakes vs. pie debate moot. Nobie’s Instagram lists that day’s specials; don’t miss the Cookie Monster pie with chocolate chip cookie crust.
Otto Sanchez and Matthieu Cabon - Magnol French Baking
After working together in Las Vegas for superstar chef Joël Robuchon, Sanchez and Cabon reunited to launch Magnol. Originally envisioned as primarily a bread-only, mostly wholesale operation, customer demanded prompted the chefs to add an ever-expanding selection of pastries and sweets. Now, their breads can be found at many of Houston’s top restaurants, and the chefs are contemplating satellite locations that would bring the Magnol magic to more parts of Houston.
Rebecca Masson - Fluff Bake Bar
The veteran pastry chef is firing on all cylinders at her new home near The Heights. In addition to fan favorites like the Couch Potato cookie and Star Crossed Lover, Masson has begun to expand her selection of house made ice creams. Weekend specials such as croissants and kolaches filled with barbecue regularly sell out in under an hour.
Samantha Mendoza - Killen's Restaurants
Ronnie Killen’s restaurant may best be known for their meats, but skipping dessert would be a mistake. Mendoza’s delicate, handspun chocolates end every meal at Killen’s steakhouse on a sweet note, while her milkshakes are the perfect pairing for a Killen’s burger. While some items like the German chocolate cake at Killen’s are based on family recipes, Mendoza’s attention to detail ensures they taste the same every visit.
Shawn Gawle - Goodnight Hospitality
Few pastry chefs showcase a more diverse set of skills than Gawle. From canales and cookies at Montrose Cheese & Wine to basque cheesecake and gelato at Rosie Cannonball to intricately plates pastries at March, Gawle’s offerings run the gamut from humble to fine dining. No matter what, his sweets will always be properly balanced — the proverbial sweet but not too sweet — flavorful, and satisfying.
Vanarin Kuch - Koffeteria
Now into his second year of operations at Koffeteria, Kuch shows a relentless passion to take inspiration from Houston’s diverse culinary scene and turn them into both sweet and savory pastries that Houstonians want to eat. In honor of pride, he created the Pride Queen, a kouign amann with ube funfetti and glitter. On the savory side, look for recent creations like the chicken chimichurri kolache.