In our recurring series In the Kitchen, we sit down with the restaurateurs and culinary pros who've partnered with Irving Farm to find out more about their inspirations—and of course, their feelings about coffee. In this installment, our newest Irving Farmer Josh Littlefield—pastry-lover, ice-cream connoisseur, and coffee expert, speaks with Karys Logue, Pastry Chef at Tessa, one of the most exciting new additions to the Upper West Side fine dining landscape. Here's what Josh found out about the story behind Tessa's inspired dessert program, and Logue own path to pastry.
Chef Logue almost led a very different life. In high school, she was drawn to the hard sciences, and had been accepted to Brown University's neuroscience program. But in the months leading to graduation, she noticed she was finding more enjoyment baking for the study groups she had organized, rather than actually studying her soon-to-be major.
She decided to forgo her Ivy League track to follow her culinary passion, and the rest is history. Shortly after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, she visited New York City one Friday for what she thought would be just a day-long trial at the restaurant Daniel. After her shift, the pastry chef approached her with an offer. She would be granted a full-time position on the condition that she began the following Monday. Karys packed her bags, and within two days transplanted into a three-year career at Daniel, working alongside the critically acclaimed Dominique Ansel, creator of the infamous Cronut (of which I am personally guilty of waiting 2 hours in the rain for on one occasion. No regrets). After Daniel, Logue spent time in Australia as the pastry chef for Sepia, consistently regarded as Australia's finest restaurant, winning Restaurant of The Year in 2014. It was here she learned many of the modernist plating ideas and techniques that she employs today. After returning, she held the position of sous-chef and interim head pastry chef of Cafe Boulud. Recently, Karys took command as pastry chef of Tessa, developing the menu and overseeing its opening.
What field of pastry are you most passionate about?
For most of my recent memory it has been plated desserts. The opportunity to create an experience in an à la minute way, then seeing the excitement on a customer's face as it makes it to the table is so rewarding. It makes it pretty personal and I love it.
How did you develop the menu here at Tessa?
Seasonality, approachability, and surprise. I started by following some classical parameters—a light, fruit based dish; a chocolate-centered dessert; and then something in between. After that, seasonality is extremely important to me. Take for example the Spring Apricot Pastiche dish. I started with something as classical as a caramelized puff pastry. We then created an herbes de provence cream to tie it to the restaurant’s French and European influences. I then added the element of surprise—taking a German Halbtrocken Riesling, we created a concentrated poaching liquid to confit fresh apricots. This, paired with a micro-basil garnish gives an explosive, refreshing experience of acidity and brightness.
Tell us about the process of creating the Irving Farm Pot de Creme—you use both the 71 Irving House Blend and our signature espresso, Blackstrap?
In the menu I wanted to have items that all customers found familiar but then add a surprising twist. For the pot de creme, you would assume it’s just coffee plus chocolate. Starting with that familiar combination that most everyone knows I let the ingredients such as your coffee speak for themselves then add components to further express. Candied orange zest was added to bring out the coffee’s brighter notes. The darker chocolate in the cake highlights the coffee’s richness. Then, you have the heartiness from the dates complimenting the full body of the espresso, and finally floral aspects and spices from the espresso are brought out through the cardamom.
Thanks so much for your time, Karys!
Tessa is located at 349 Amsterdam Ave, New York, New York, 10024. They're open seven days a week for lunch and dinner with a brunch menu so delicious on weekends, it's very likely that you may run into Josh or another member of Irving Farm enjoying their breakfast offerings—with a pot de creme chaser, of course.