Part Two of the first edition of “Name That Pastry Chef” should begin with revealing the chef's identity, if not for the small matter of ruining the surprise with pesky little tags. Waiter, another blini. Straight up, please.
As for Park, the pastry chef at Riva (and as of two weeks ago, also Fraiche) since co-owner Miho Travi departed for more kid-friendly fare, the 28-year-old L.A. native grew up in the restaurant biz (his uncle and mother formerly owned several Koreatown restaurants). For Park, a polite, soft spoken former collegiate mathematician, it's the precision of pastry that was the draw. That, and the intensity of Pythagorean-chocolate and perfectly Calculus-edged German chocolate cake. For the rest of us, there's his easy (Scout's honor) dark chocolate sauce recipe. Keep reading after the jump for a Q&A with Park, and the recipe…
Squid Ink: Riva's former pastry chef, Miho Travi, is the restaurant's co-owner and your boss Jason Travi's wife. How's that going?
John Park: It's a little daunting, but that's part of the challenge.
SI: How would you describe your style?
JP: I like taking things that have been done before, like the more classic torta della nonna that was on the menu before, then reinvent them. Like I took the blueberry cake batter with vanilla pastry cream that I did at Water Grill, and instead of using regular pine nuts on top, which for me are not crunchy enough on their own, I ground them up to make a streusel. When you cut into it, the pastry cream oozes out. It's the only pastry on both menus [Riva and Fraiche].
SI: Is that how you came up with the milk chocolate crémeux?
JP: Yes, it's basically German chocolate cake, taken apart and rebuilt, with coconut sorbet, those candied pecans on the side, and chocolate sauce.
SI: The biggest challenge at Riva vs. Water Grill?
JP: The old pizza oven, now used for tapas, that radiates so much heat. The pastry station is right beside it. You can't make tuilles. We don't even try. But maybe we don't need tuilles at an Italian restaurant.
John Park's Chocolate Sauce
Park serves this chocolate sauce with his milk chocolate crémeux (a fancy name for molded pudding, in this case the deconstructed German Chocolate cake base). It's also great over ice cream, fresh strawberries and cream, or better still, spooned straight out of the pot. Keeps 1 week, refrigerated.
½ cup sugar
¾ cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter
16 ounces dark chocolate (70% cocoa recommended)
¼ cup crème fraiche
1. In a medium saucepan, bring 5 ounces of water, the sugar, milk, cream, and butter to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
2. Put the chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl and immediately pour the hot cream mixture over it.
3. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and fold in the crème fraiche.