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August 9th, 2012
Interview with Shawn Gawle
Formally trained as a savory cook, Shawn spent years working in some of America’s most highly regarded kitchens. He began his career in Chicago at Tru under celebrated Chef Rick Tramonto. In 2004, Shawn moved to Philadelphia and was named sous chef at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, Esquire Magazine’s Best Restaurant of the Year in 2003. At the Rittenhouse, Shawn worked with the world-renowned Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix, who would become one of his greatest mentors and pique his initial interest in pastry.
Shawn joined the team at Corton in September 2010 and enjoys collaborating with Chef Liebrandt on a singular vision for Corton's cuisine. Chef Gawle was named a 2011 New York Rising Star by StarChefs. He participates in several annual events that support charities, including Meals-on-Wheels, Action Against Hunger, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools program, and Autism Speaks.
What inspired you to become a pastry chef rather than a savory cook?
I actually started in savory and then moved to pastry. I see it as a benefit to know both sides. In fact, my first food job was at my dad’s restaurant deli, Ed’s Poultry Farm Kitchen in Brockton, Massachusetts. Knowing more, learning more, makes you a better chef. I’ve always had fun and you might as well enjoy your career. I decided to make the move to pastry because I have a great respect for the technique and the precision involved.
Have any mentors? What have you learned from them?
Laurent Gras. He taught me the notion of balance. Not only do you need balance in your cuisine, but you need balance in your life and that is what Laurent taught me. Whether that is reading a book that is not related to the food industry or playing sports, you need help to balance yourself outside of your career.
What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
I think that I enjoy combining different flavors with chocolate because of its versatility. A few combinations that I like are:
- Sesame and chocolate
- Olive oil and chocolate
- Salt and chocolate
Is Corton’s dessert menu constructed and developed by you? How often does it change?
Yes, Corton’s dessert menu is created by me and executed by me and my pastry team. It changes week to week. We make little tweaks here and there and of course there are larger changes when the seasons change.
Do you get any or all of your ingredients from local farmer markets?
Yes, being in New York, we have access to vast local markets. Some of the ingredients that I procure from farmers are rhubarb, strawberries, verbena, tomatoes and cheeses.
What advice would you give to young pastry chefs just getting started andwhat are your tips for pastry success?
Focus and respect for your craft and for others around you. Talk to someone, not down to someone. Learn all the processes behind what you are making and don’t skip through any steps before you fully understand what the results will be. Make sure you have a firm grasp of the classics.
On the equipment side, do you have a favorite blender or other piece of equipment that you like to use and makes your job easier?
My PacoJet. It’s convenient for the little space that you have in a New York City kitchen and I can use it for a variety of purposes, such as purées and pliable ice creams.
Looking into your crystal ball… Where will we find you in five years?
Five years ago, I never thought I’d be where I am today. So, only time will tell.
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