Welcome to the Sugar Files, where Eater uncovers and features the city's best pastry talent. In this edition, Andrea Wight of Beast + Bottle gets the spotlight.
Andrea Wight [Photo: [Adam Larkey]
Andrea Wight is the pastry chef at Beast + Bottle. She met owner Paul Reilly while working the line at Vesta Dipping Grill. After years working as a cook, Wight is devoting her skills to the sweet side of the kitchen. The small pastry menu at Beast + Bottle is built on the best ingredients of the season- currently rhubarb and apricot- and always offering the chocolate dacquoise, a customer favorite. A New York state native, Wight got her bachelor and master degree from Penn State in restaurant management. She talked to Eater about the challenges of constantly evolving, who she wants to learn from, and eating ice cream for every meal.
What is your approach to pastry at Beast + Bottle? Usually I start with a flavor- whether it's something we get seasonally like an herb, fruit, vegetable, or a type of chocolate or pastry, and build around it. Then the fun part of pairing flavors, textures, techniques, temperatures, and balancing acidity comes into play. Like everything at Beast + Bottle, the menu changes when we get excited about something new. Often our farmers and purveyors dictate the direction of our menu. They are really excited about a harvest and in turn get us really excited. Especially during the spring and summer, it seems as though we can't change the menu fast enough to feature all the great produce.
What would you like to put on the menu?I really want to do a squash blossom dessert. The season is so short and it's really hard to get them consistently so we'll probably just have them for a few weeks but that's okay. That's the beauty of having such a small menu and being able to change stuff.
Where do you get your inspiration for your pastries? 90 percent of it is from the farmers. They bring us things and then I say, what flavors go with this? How can I change the texture of this? I also love to look at pictures. Eating out of course, seeing what other people are doing, seeing people in their element is great inspiration.
What is the best part about being a pastry chef? The constant ability to create. The people are fabulous. A 12-hour day with really wonderful people makes it a great place to work and really fun. I think often people come into Beast + Bottle to celebrate things or it's a special occasion and it's really awesome to be able to enhance it or make a great day phenomenal with a meal. Being able to be a part of people's celebration is pretty exciting.
What's the hardest part about your job? The space in our kitchen is extremely small. There's always a lot of people and very little space. That's a daily challenge. One of the biggest challenges is always trying to be better, always evolving.
How do you do that? I think the more you eat out, the more ideas you have. The more you read, the more you see. I think that makes it much easier.
Do you have any advice for aspiring pastry chefs? It's funny for people to ask if I have any advice. I'm an aspiring young pastry chef. I've only been doing this full-time for a year. I would say work hard and learn as much as you can. Find a style or type of pastry that you really like and then work under someone. That's something I wish I could do every day, to stage somewhere new everyday. You see someone doing something and you learn a new technique, or a new piece of equipment, or a new way to store something, or a new way to make ice cream. That is really helpful, especially for young pastry chefs, myself included.
Who would you like to study with? I've been reading a lot of Michael Laiskonis' stuff. He was the pastry chef at Le Bernadin, he's now teaching at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. Just travelling too and seeing other cultures. I have a friend who just did a year in Australia and was bouncing around different kitchens. I would love to do that. I also love Dana Cree's work at Blackbird. We don't really have the space or equipment to do really great bread in house for Beast + Bottle so Babette's does all of our table bread and croissants. I would love to spend a few days with Steve and his staff. Every Saturday brunch service, I cut one in half just to look at all the folds. It's pretty amazing- so perfect they irritate me, in the best way.
Have you had any great pastries in Denver? I actually was just at Frasca two weeks ago and they had a really delicious cheesecake on the menu. It had a poppy seed gelee on the top. It was beautiful and super light, great for summer. I was at Linger a few weeks ago, and Sam had cotton-candy as a garnish and it was so delicious and really neat.
Do you eat dessert often outside of work? I could eat ice cream for every meal, every day. I love Liks.
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