What is in this article?:
- Pastry chef Bill Corbett lets seasons dictate desserts
- Summer flavors and ignoring trends
Corbett, executive pastry chef for The Absinthe Group, oversees the dessert menus at four San Francisco restaurants.
Bill Corbett, executive pastry chef of The Absinthe Group
Bill Corbett is becoming known as one of the country’s most skilled and respected pastry chefs.
After honing his skills at New York City hot spots like wd~50, he moved to California, where he joined The Absinthe Group as executive pastryin 2011. In his position, Corbett oversees the pastry menus at popular San Francisco restaurants Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Arlequin Cafe & Food to Go, Boxing Room and Comstock Saloon, where he incorporates international influences in his organic presentations.
Corbett is also a founding member of Killed By Dessert, a multi-course dessert pop-up event that took place in Brooklyn and Austin, Texas, last month and raised more than $20,000 for childhood hunger nonprofit Share Our Strength.
He recently spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about not following trends and letting ingredients dictate presentation.
How do the menus at Absinthe, Arlequin Cafe, Boxing Room and Comstock Saloon differ? How you approach them?
Well, each restaurant definitely has its own personality and cuisine. I try to tap into what each restaurant is supposed to be, which includes what the guest expects it to be. At Absinthe, we're doing food that's a little more refined, without being pretentious, so we try to tap into the guest's sense of nostalgia while serving them something a little more adventurous than your average dessert. At Boxing Room, we tend to tap into desserts that you might expect at home, but we try to elevate them beyond your average homestyle dessert. At Arlequin, we try to keep it simple with desserts you can eat while on the go, but made with the same technique that goes into our high-end desserts. Comstock Saloon has a great way of tapping into Americana, so we try to follow that lead. Above all else we try to stay in tune with what's going on at the farmers' markets.
How would you describe your style? What or who influences you?
I would say my style is organic but intentional. As far as flavors go, I like to give the guest food they can relate to, with a surprise, usually by introducing them to an ingredient they're not expecting in dessert. Although I don't do crazy flavor combinations for shock value or for the sake of being the renegade, the flavors really need to work together. As far as presentation goes, I try not to force a lot of shapes into my desserts. I feel that the ingredients will dictate the shape for you.
What desserts seem to be most popular with your customers?
Desserts that really touch on childhood seem to do the best. My biggest hit so far has probably been the different iterations of German Chocolate Cake that I've done.