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Q & A with the head pastry chef at Avero Bar Italiano

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By 21st Century Media
Q. How did you begin cooking/baking? What is your education/past working experience?
A. As young girls, my mother, who at the time was a night nurse (and single) assigned my sister and I the task of preparing dinner each night for our family. We would plan and execute meals for the week, constantly learning what flavor combinations tasted great— and which ingredients didn’t play so well together—along the way. In a way you could say I was thrown into the fire; but I never stopped loving the heat of the kitchen. As my passion for all things culinary continuously grew, I enrolled in classes at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College to hone technical skills, which would complement my self-­taught repertoire.  And, while I don’t graduate until this summer, as you can see, I didn’t want to wait until then to get some restaurant experience under my coat, er belt. In fact, prior to my position at Avero, I worked with Savona’s pastry team.

Stephanie Vacca, head pastry chef at Avero Bar Italiano.

Stephanie Vacca, head pastry chef at Avero Bar Italiano.

Q. What desserts are you most excited to begin preparing this spring?
A. I’m really looking forward to incorporating more fruits into our offerings; their flavors come alive in the spring—and they’re extra juicy. There is a specific 2-­week period during the spring when all the best local strawberries will hit our kitchen (you know, the ones that taste like nectar sent straight from heaven). Since we’ll have boxes upon boxes of strawberries during this time, I’ll of course find delicious—and unexpected—ways to incorporate them into many of our desserts. But, back to the idea of exploring the world of savory (and sweet, in this case)… Can you imagine indulging in a warm garlic bread panzanella bursting with red strawberries slices, tangy feta cheese, young green olives, extra virgin olive oil and a balsamic glaze? I want to show the versatility of the fruits; and that you never have to go in one direction with any ingredient.

Q. What do you think are the key components of a great dessert?
A. Three things: Balanced flavor profiles (combining sweet, sour, salty, bitter) presentation and texture. Well, maybe four if you add “addictiveness.” Flavor profiles and presentation are more obvious, but in my opinion, texture often guests overlooked. Playing with crunchy, smooth, creamy, coarse and gritty makes dessert—and really all different types of dishes—more exciting. Our desserts have simple and familiar styles and flavors that quickly transition to innovative and complex. Instead of a traditional Tiramisu, for instance, ours is made with aged balsamic and served with a hazelnut brittle and shaved dark chocolate. Likewise, our dense chocolate cake is laced with Calabrian chile and served with a crème anglaise; and don’t be surprised pick up notes of fresh herbs in our semifreddo. We’re throwing boring out the window and creating a little adventure to keep those senses guessing!

Q. What locally sourced ingredients go into Avero desserts?
A. Locally sourced ingredients include (but aren’t limited to) organic milk, butter, farmer’s eggs, cheese, artisanal flour, honey, buttermilk, mushrooms, baby greens, fresh herbs… Even locally farmed bacon. We’re extremely grateful for our relationships with local purveyors—Kreider Farms Organic Dairy, Green Meadow Dairy, Twin Lakes Farms, Irwin Mushrooms and Windy Acres Farms, to name a few—who provide us with such superior raw products to work with. Being able to take advantage of local organic dairy is especially crucial to the caliber of desserts we’re able to put out… Because dairy is so delicate, it picks up a lot of flavors along the way; which can be wonderful, or terrible, depending on your source.

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