Yigit Wants to Bring Flavor and Color Into Your Life
Yigit Pura (pronounced Yeet – rhymes with sweet) won the first edition of reality TVs Top Chef: Just Desserts. The judges and the fans appreciated his drive and sense of consistent style and those personality traits come through in his new book, Sweet Alchemy, as well. He likes color, classic technique and twists on presentation. The book is pure Yigit. I was particularly drawn to the Layered Crèpe Cake Brulée, Orange Flower Water Diplomat Cream, Baked Berry Meringue Kisses and The Sexy Chocolate Coupe. The desserts have a chef’s flair, but they are by and large very approachable for the home baker looking to branch out and perhaps pay more attention to the visuals. When in San Francisco you can visit his Union Square shop, Tout Sweet Patisserie, but with the book you can dive into Yigit’s world every day.
Dédé: Yigit, thank you for taking the time to chat with me!
Yigit: No problem, Dédé.
Let’s jump right in and talk about the book…had you written for the home cook before? Do you think there is a difference between writing for the home baker and speaking to the professional pastry chef?
I actually don’t think there is a difference…it’s about knowing what you want to do and using intuition as well as understanding some technique. A lot of professional texts can be intimidating but I wrote the book the way I did to show the alchemy…
It is a great title…
There is technique, as I said, but there is magic…flour, sugar, water…these are humble, basic elements and they can make something as simple as a levain or as complex as a layered dessert or a wedding cake…I wanted to break it down so it wouldn’t be so overwhelming but rather to lay out the knowledge of how things behave…pastry is like a person! There are elements of behavior. Once you know how someone or something behaves, you know what to expect.
Each chapter begins with a simple recipe and once you make it, you gain confidence and are ready for the others that follow…even as a professional chef that’s how I was trained and mentored…it is all about laying a foundation…I wanted to give readers something simple and then the accomplishment provides positive reinforcement.
This is a great approach and in a fall with so many baking books out there, this really distinguishes your take…
Most people think that recipes like this take hours to make or weeks to learn but once you know the process, it is effortless.
Are you happy with the book design? It seems to really capture you…
Yes! I agree. There are so many bakeries that take a slate gray and white approach and tons of earth tones and there is nothing wrong with that, but that isn’t me. Have you ever been to Tout Sweet? The store, like the book, is filled with color…I wanted something to speak to the inner child and I think color is so underutilized…I love being a pastry chef. It feeds the scientist nerd in me but there are also artistic dimensions. I get really stoked by it…I am actually really pleased that the book is colorful and sexy!
Color seems so important to you. Is that an aesthetic you take throughout your life?
Yes (laughs). Like I wear fun socks! Life is fun; you can be in a TV meeting but still have a playful sense of being with crazy socks on…the day goes by better! …I also have raspberry red walls; they speak to my personality.
What are 3 important things you think the home baker should know?
1. Don’t cut corners. Professionals fall into this, too, sometimes. There are times to improvise but not with the basics. Proceed in an orderly fashion.
2. Be patient but also be in the moment and enjoy the process.
3. And the third thing is don’t take it so seriously! In our kitchen we might measure to the nearest gram…
People come into your bakery and expect their favorite thing to be the exact same very time, but for the home baker it’s different…
Exactly… you don’t have to…whatever you make it doesn’t have to be perfect…have fun! It will probably be at least 80% of the way there and it will make baking more fun.
Where there any recipes you had to cut from the book?
Oh yes. It was so sad that I had to say goodbye to 20 “children”!
Maybe there will be a second book!
And then there were ones we kept that surprised me. I am obsessed with floral flavors like with the French Lavender Pavolvas…it was surprising to me that people loved them too.
Any last words about the book?
It’s my personal journey. I tell the kids that work under me to read and experience as much as possible…learn about different cuisines, study with different chefs from different backgrounds…work in different kitchens so that you can see the different ways of making things. See how it works and make it your own. I am not the only one – I am not that arrogant – but my book is a nice complement to the classics and offers a nice young, fresh perspective.
Well thank you Yigit! Congrats on the book; we wish you well with it. We will be featuring your Three-Minute Chocolate Sauce and also your Pistachio–Vietnamese Cinnamon Brittle to bring a little of you into our community member’s kitchens.
Thank you, Dédé.