THE INTERVIEW: Executive Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini for Macy's Culinary CouncilWednesday, June 05, 2013
Macy's does it again! Their latest campaign "American Icons: A Celebration of the People,Places and Things We Love" is fun, fresh and features a number of events around the nation! One of the events for the campaign involves the Macy's Culinary Council's Chef's A-Go-Go Food Truck Tour. For their second stop, the food truck arrived at Macy's Memorial City Mall in Houston, Texas with Executive Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini. I had the opportunity to interview Johnny before the event. He is a very humble, down-to-earth cat and I'm happy that I had the chance to chat with him. Below are snippets from the interview. You can listen to the full interview via the embedded video or HERE on YouTube! Enjoy!
I started off by asking Chef Johnny about becoming a pastry chef:
"I come from a background where my mother was a wildlife veterinarian...Once I moved to the city to further my career after I graduated high school before college I started working at this fine dining restaurant....It was my job to kill lobsters and the guy next to me is breaking down a goat so it immediately tapped into my emotional side where I had just left home where I was nursing animals back to health and I can't be the one killing them. As much as I'm a cook and its fine I get it, I'm not a vegan or anything, but I didn't want it to be my own hands. It caused a little bit of a turmoil in me. Meanwhile the pastry chef was making all these fantastical things...it just seemed more creative...it just seemed like a better fit.
How does French Pastry differ from American Pastry?
We don't have that culture , if you go to a place like France in Paris or other major cities, there's a bakery on every block, there's a butcher on every block, there's a chocolatier on every block...We don't have that type of food culture that they have in a lot of these countries. But being American we have the best of everything too though, whereas we pick and choose from a lot of different cultures and created our own culture.
Do you think you prefer the French culture a little bit more or the American culture?
I've only worked for French chefs but all around the world. American pastry tends to be a bit sweet, a bit heavier and maybe a bit less refined than french pastry, so I tend to prefer to work in the French style.
What was it about the Macy's Culinary Council that made you want to be apart of it?
I mean, I grew up a Macy's kid. We would go school shopping every year. My mom and dad would take us to get all our jeans and everything else. I grew up in the Macy's family. And then about ten years ago, I was apart of something called the Feast your Senses tour where I got to apply my skill sets to working with the actual fragrance division of Macy's. We broke down the perfumes...and rebuilt them with flavors of desserts. I matched the flavors of the perfumes with desserts.
Every time I smell fresh cut grass or pine tree I'm immediately brought back to my youth. When you can really connect scent and food and emotion together, it's really extraordinary. The most popular fragrances tend to be ones that people can relate to.
How do you take it all in, with all of the awards you have received?
I've been fortunate enough to work for some of the best chefs around the world. I've made ever sacrifice I could to do so... I'm very proud of what I've achieved at the age that I'm at...and I try to inspire the generation after me and make myself readily to them to help them along the way and open any doors I can do for them. I think it's really important to give back.
To hear all of the questions I asked Chef Johnny and his answers, check out the video on YouTube!
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with over twenty years of kitchen experience, Chef Iuzzini honed his craft at highly lauded New York City dining locations such as The River Café, Daniel, Payard, Café Boulud and Jean Georges. In 1998 he traveled around the world and studied pastry at some of the finest patisseries in France including LaDuree under Pierre Hermès. In 2006, the James Beard Foundation awarded Chef Iuzzini "Pastry Chef of the Year." He has also been recognized as one of the "10 Most Influential Pastry Chefs in America" by Forbes, and as one of the “Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America” by Pastry Arts and Design. He has appeared on national television shows including the Today Show, Good Morning America, Martha Stewart, and Live with Regis and Kelly. While he was the Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Jean Georges, the restaurant received four stars from the New York Times, three Michelin stars, and was considered one of the world’s fifty greatest restaurants. Chef Iuzzini was the head judge of Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts for two seasons and the author of DESSERT FOURPLAY: Sweet Quartets From A Four-Star Pastry Chef.
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