The RAMMY winner for pastry on keeping it simple and what comes after cupcakes. Plus, a video of the chef in action!
By Stephie Hass
In an ongoing series, Washington Life sits down with some of the area’s best pastry chefs to see where D.C. desserts are heading.
Chef Fabrice Bendano was born in Paris and found himself drawn to the culinary field from an early age. He worked at several top restaurants in Europe before arriving in Washington in fall 1999 to work at Les Halles. After stints at Citronelle, Bistro du Coin and 1789, he joined Adour at The St. Regis Washington when it opened in 2008.
A 13-year resident of Washington, Bendano no longer considers France home but he has brought more than just a French accent and superior pastry skills over the Atlantic: Bendano is the D.C. champion of the macaron. At Adour, he teaches seasonal pastry and macaron-making classes in his kitchen and is behind the restaurant’s signature macarons-à-porter retail program.
Bendano’s dessert philosophy is deceptively simple — classic desserts where fresh, local ingredients shine. Yet his flavor pairings and nuanced ingredient combinations are so successful that he was recently awarded the 2012 RAMMY Award for Best Pastry Chef. His creativity is driven by an appetite for new experiences and a drive to discover, whether an exotic ingredient, a new restaurant in D.C. or a different part of the country he calls home.
Congratulations on winning the 2012 RAMMY for Best Pastry Chef. What sets Adour apart in pastry?
I don’t want to compare myself with anyone but I try to make desserts that are simple and easy to recognize. It’s easy to make some things excellent but it’s hard to do it every day and that was always my challenge. I pay a lot of attention to quality and flavors. I want people to understand the dessert, as soon as you eat you have to recognize what it is right away. My desserts have to be classic, but modernized a little.
What are your favorite ingredients and flavor combinations?
Chocolate is my favorite ingredient. Lately I’ve been using yuzu, a Japanese citrus, found in Japan and Korea. It looks like a big lime and the flavor is between a lime and tangerine. In France you see it much more, here I never see it anywhere. I like to use ingredients from different countries and I did some research and started to play with it. It’s on our menu as Chocolate / Yuzu bar.
What trends are you seeing in dessert and pastry?
I use savory ingredients in dessert but not as a main dessert, just to bring out flavors. There is room for savory for dessert. I’m open minded to try this avenue.
What are your thoughts on the cupcake trend?
It is definitely an American signature. I think there is more to do on cupcakes, you can play around. It’s becoming a little fashionable in France but the way they do it is different — they add new things inside, not just cake and frosting. Personally I don’t think it will disappear.
What do you think is coming next in dessert?
Macarons are now getting big on the market, probably the new trend in America. It’s a fun pastry — it’s bite size, you don’t need a napkin, you have so many colors, it’s a fun product. For people who don’t want too many calories — eat one or two.
I teach a cooking class at Adour and in every class, everyone is intrigued about macarons. They are easy to make at home; you don’t need to be a pastry chef.
What are your favorite Washington spots and restaurants?
When I don’t work, I usually walk around and I try to eat at different restaurants, POV bar at the W, Old Ebbitt. It’s never the same. I always try to do something different and keep myself going. I’m intrigued by different experiences. I never stay at home.