These past six months have been a game of musical chairs in the pastry department at two Wolfgang Puck restaurants. When pastry chef Sally Camacho left WP24 to oversee the pastry program at the reopening Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel-Air, Cassie Ballard stepped in at WP24 with her own dessert menu. In late November, the two flip-flopped; Ballard shifted to the Hotel Bel-Air and Camacho returned to WP24. (Changes in the main kitchen, too: Chef John Lechleidner recently replaced Sara Johanes.)
After cooking her way to the finals of Top Chef Just Desserts and winning third place in the Valrhona C3 World Competition in Madrid (the highest an American has ever placed), Camacho is, once again, reworking the dessert menu at WP24. She has a few new tricks, including a fantastic Ovaltine "candy bar" inspired by a Quickfire challenge she won on Top Chef.
Long and thin but far too delicate to be contained by a wrapper, the refined version of Camacho's Ovaltine candy bar is made with a base of crisp "forbidden rice" (aka black Japonica rice), layered with soft Ovaltine and chocolate mousse, adorned with dabs of Caramelia Valrhona chocolate and swirls of Ovaltine cream. It's easy to see why it wowed the Top Chef judges.
She also has put her own spin on Ballard's Tobu Banana, replacing banana ice cream with coconut sorbet and adding a cocoa bread and a white chocolate mousse. Hazelnut streusel and caramelized bananas still abound.
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If Camacho has a signature dessert, it's the Marjolasian. With layers of white chocolate espresso mousse, caramelized cashew wafers (cashews are a favorite ingredient of hers), caramel and chocolate on a flourless chocolate cake, no wonder it never left the menu, even while she was at the Hotel Bel-Air.
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