The Ritz-Carlton Denver Takes the Cake

Ritz Carlton Wedding Cake (Denver)People know the The Ritz-Carlton to be the “Nordstrom” of the hotel world – it really is an exceptional hotel and spa and I can personally vouch that you’ll always have an amazing {dessert} dining experience at Elway’s because of Pastry Chef Leslie Ann Viets.  Pastry Chef Leslie Ann invited moi to visit her in, my idea of heaven, the pastry kitchen at the Ritz, to watch her in action and get to know her.  And can I say a sugary wonderland of floor to ceiling confections!  (Pinch me…Have I died and gone to heaven?)

I know many of you saw the “drool-worthy” recipe she created just for Valentine’s day at Elway’s restaurant in the Ritz.  She is amazing at what she does – creating a work of edible art day in and day out. Chef Leslie Ann credits “running a lot” so she can continue to taste her magnificent creations.

Leslie Ann Viets, Ritz-Carlton Pasty Chef

SL: Tell us a bit about yourself
LAV: I graduated in 1992 from the New England Culinary Institute, in which I originally studied art and sculpting with my grandfather, who was one of the original seven animators for Walt Disney, eventually making the decision to combine my love of art and food into one. I first began my culinary career in the savory food arena; however, under the guidance of renowned Pastry Chef Jim Dodge, I was coerced into switching over to the sweet side of the kitchen. I was able to work with distinguished pastry chefs such as Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill, Rick Katz of Biba, and San Francisco confectioner, Michael Rechiutti, and was given the opportunity to refine my skills for creating pastry, desserts, breads and confections.

SL: Why desserts:
LAV: Baking is a creative outlet for me. I guess it suits my personality since I am very precise, or anal retentive (um she said it…not I), I also love working with my hands – I really see desserts as instant gratification.

SL: Where do you get inspiration?
LAV: Novelties, I love to include my original passion for savory foods into sweet.  I get a lot of inspiration from organics in nature – many of my cakes include a major emphasis on organics.

Ritz-Carlton Wedding Cake (Denver)

SL: What advice would you give to those of us trying to create desserts at home?
LAV: Play, Play, Play – Try, Try, Try, Read, Read, Read….Self education is key.  Don’t let anything (or recipe) intimidate you – you’ve just gotta go for it.  If you’re in Colorado baking is tricky because of high altitude, definitely follow the high altitude instructions.

SL: What do you make in your own kitchen?
LAV: I love to cook savory for my friends.  When I do make desserts, I go with a simple dessert or even a combination of cheeses.  I “LOVE” cheese!

SL: What is the one kitchen tool you couldn’t live without?
LAV: Oh you stumped me on this one!!  (she looked around the kitchen and pretty much named off everything that she couldn’t do with out!).  Ok, if I had to pick ONE thing, it would be a good knife.  I need a knife.

SL: What one ingredient wouldn’t you be able to cook without? (she offered this question – and it’s a good one!)
LAV: SALT!  Salt is incredibly important when balancing the sweet.  Leslie’s “salty” rule of thumb – 1 tsp of salt for every 3 cups of flour.
SL: Great advice!

SL: What was the most memorable dessert you’ve ever had?
LAV: Oh I know this one!  I was in a little bistro in Paris and saw on the menu Sliced Strawberries w/ sugar (sugar brings out the natural juice of strawberries) with a dollop of parsley sorbet – and I thought to myself – oh that sounds like an amazing and refreshing combination.  I don’t normally order desserts from restaurants unless it sounds intriguing.  It was one of the most memorable desserts I have ever had.

SL: If you were a dessert, what would you be?  And why..
LAV: A warm chocolate chip cookie…homey, approachable, familiar, simple.

I admit – I was intimidated meeting with this amazing Pastry Chef, but she really was like a warm chocolate chip cookie.  I truly enjoyed meeting with Pastry Chef Leslie Ann and we at Sugar Loco wishes her the best of luck!

More information on the The Ritz-Carlton / Facebook, Elway’s Restaurant (Denver), or Pastry Chef Leslie Ann Viets

Ritz Carlton Wedding Cake (Denver)