If you’re as crazy about North Square’s chocolate mousse cake or butterscotch creme brulee as I am, you’ll agree that John Cheng deserves a round of applause. John has been the consulting pastry chef for the restaurant for over four years and is the brains behind all those sugary delights. I caught up with him when he was in his car and while we were able to speak only briefly–his phone battery was on it’s last gasp–I was able to toss a few getting-to-know-you questions at the man behind the key lime pie.
I always wonder why people choose their professions and asked John how he came to bake. “It’s a long story,” he said. The short version is that when he was growing up, it was the only job he could find in a restaurant. “The passion came later. You could say that it chose me.”
But in the end: “I actually love what I do. I know it sounds corny, but I love what I do. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to make things better.” Doesn’t sound corny to me. Not at all.
When I queried him on what his favorite dessert is, he said, “I can’t believe you just asked me that question. Everybody asks me that question!”
I know John, but hey–if you met Keith Richards, wouldn’t you ask what his favorite album was? Turns out that pastry chefs are always the hit of the party and are constantly prodded to talk shop. We agreed that someone who is a mechanic is not usually egged on to talk about oil changes over cocktails, but a pastry chef, yeah–people inevitably want the goods. “Even more than that, women–only women–ask me to make me a cake for them.”
Uh-oh. Time to skip my next question and move on.
I confessed that I have a fear of baking, pretty much because I suck at it, and tend to stick to Nestle’s toll house in the tube. How can I loosen up and bake pretty, yummy things from scratch to impress family and friends?
“Have a glass of wine before you start.” (Sound advice, for sure.) “And no matter how bad, you can always eat your product.” True that–I figure that chocolate mess is better than no chocolate at all.
The phone was about to go kaput, so we wrapped it up with promises from John that he would happily provide recipes and answer any questions we would have in the future.
So readers, please feel free to ask anything you like. John is there for all your (and my) dessert-related needs!
Have a great weekend!