Where did you grow up?
Corning, New York

When did you first become aware of a love of food?
I always liked to cook for friends during college. After college I’d throw dinner parties (when we were all poor) where I would charge guests $10. I would buy the food, prepare new recipes of things I wanted to try, techniques I wanted to learn. My friends got a home-cooked meal and met new people.

How did you come to the decision to pursue desserts and not cuisine?
I actually started out in “the main part of the kitchen”. After seven years there I switched to desserts. I figured it was a pretty good deal to get paid to make cakes and cookies all day. In the main kitchen I was losing my love for being around food every day. I had eyed the pastry department for years and knew it was my calling—even before I started.

Where did you study?

Denison University BA; New York Restaurant School, Manhattan

Do you think it’s necessary to study in France to become a professional pastry chef?
No, I don’t. Obviously if you go you will get something out of it. But like everything else in life, there are many paths into a career.

What inspires you/your recipes?

Flavor, flavor, flavor. Many pastry chefs do not emphasize flavor enough. It gets sacrificed for visual appearance. Fresh ingredients inspire me—especially fruit in season—also knowing someone’s favorite flavors and incorporating them into a new dessert to serve them.

What’s your personal favorite food indulgence (pastry or otherwise)?
Ice cream.

Where do you dine out when not at Farallon?
Bizou or my house.

What did you eat growing up? Was good food a part of your upbringing?
My parents always loved to cook. We got Gourmet magazine starting in 1952. I wasn’t too adventurous as a kid. In high school I branched out a little. Not only did I come to really enjoy food but I saw the wonderful conversations and social interactions that result from people sitting around the table with good food. As a kid I always liked to set and decorate the table for special occasions. It helped build up the party in my mind.

Do you cook as well as bake?

In this business you become a pretty good short order cook. You know what steps are important and what can be skipped. You find that you can cook for home during the work week in your sleep.

The question everyone wants to know but is embarrassed to ask: You’re so slender and fit, do you actually eat your own desserts?

Of course! But I exercise a lot. For years I ran every day. Now I’ve recently discovered rollerblading. I have to work on my speed so that I actually get a work out! But it’s fun. Exercise is mentally very important for me. Also, when you are around sugar all day and you exercise it helps keep it in balance. When you exercise you need protein and carbohydrates. I taste desserts all the time but we only have them at home when we have company. When I’m testing recipes for a book it can get tough. I try to balance the writing with the testing to even things out. When my jeans are hard to get into I know I need to back off a little!

Inspired? Try these Farallon recipes in your own kitchen.

Interview by Christi Cavallaro