There are lots of sources for ingredients if you are considering starting or expanding your pastry arts arena. If you are, consider being in touch with Steven D’Onofrio, Director of Specialty Ingredients at Ace Endico’s expanded pastry arts department. He was most recently the Managing Director of Gellert Global Group’s Swiss Chalet Fine Foods in Doral, Florida before joining the Ace Endico team with the goal of revamping the baking line which encompasses chocolate, fruit products, nut flours and pastes, glazes, sugars, flavorings, vanilla products, mixes, food coloring, stabilizers, decorations, tart and chocolate shells, and more.
He has been featured on NBC’s Today Show and in Food Arts magazine. Before enrolling in ICE (when it was still Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School), D’Onofrio worked as a public accountant. After graduating from the pastry program, he landed a pastry externship at the original Le Cirque Restaurant, where he was lucky enough to work with then Pastry Chef, Jacques Torres. During his subsequent years as a culinary professional, D’Onofrio worked as a National Sales Manager for Valrhona, and later, as the Director of Business and Product Development at Harry Wils and Company. TFS’s Joyce Appelman recently asked D’Onofrio about what the future holds for him and Ace Endico.
What sparked your interest in cooking, baking and pastry?
Great question. My interest in baking started at an early age as my first job was at the age of 13 in an Italian Pastry Shop in Brooklyn. My Mom cooked a ton, but wasn’t a great baker, but loved to make Bundt cakes.
Can you share your career path with our readers?
My career path was not a straight line. I started working as a teenager in the Pastry shop but was a strong student and parents stressed pursuing a White-collar professional path. Although I did well in school and worked for Big 4 Public Accounting firms, I was very unhappy in the field, and after getting inspired by a Television series at the time, “Great Chefs, Great Cities”, decided to pursue a career in the industry. I went to culinary school and was fortunate enough to get an internship at the original Le Cirque in New York. I worked at the Essex House in NYC, and the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, before becoming the Pastry Chef at the Wine Spectator Restaurant at the CIA, St. Helena campus. I became a Pastry Instructor at the French Culinary Institute, but always had sales and business motivations, and was fortunate to work for several Chocolate companies, prior to landing at Harry Wils and Company as the Director of Business. That position helped me land other positions in the industry.
What are the trends on your radar for 2019 in the pastry arts?
There are a fair bit of ethnic flavors influencing the pastry field, specifically Hispanic and Asian ingredients and spices. There is also a trend to back to basic ingredients, clean labels. I am also seeing more retro style of decorating.
What attracted you to the opportunity at Ace Endico?
I was inspired by the entrepreneurial story of Ace Endico and how the founders, William Endico and Murray Hertzberg’s hard work ethic, made the company a success. I love the fact that it is a family company, and I also immediately had a great reaction to my boss Michael Endico. He is very approachable, yet I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to do something dynamic at Ace.
What’s your read of the pastry needs of the Ace Endico customer base?
It runs the gamut from high-quality ingredients easy to use products for finishing a dessert.
Do you look at one set of customers that only buy pre-made pastry/dessert?
Not necessarily only them.
How will you help that customer do a better job?
If a customer buys a pre-made, especially if it is from us, I try to complement their desserts with high-quality purees and or coulis or decorations.
How about the more sophisticated customer that has a pastry chef on staff? What are they looking for?
They are generally looking for ingredients that set them apart. That may be chocolate made from a bean from a specific country of origin or a unique puree that sets them apart from the competition. Often time they are looking for opportunities to learn.
What types of ingredients will you offer? (Organic, Non-GMO etc.)
We are primarily focusing on products that are of the highest quality.
We hear so much about healthier. Is it “BS” and what people want is decadence and to celebrate when they go out?
I think people want to know what is in their food. This doesn’t mean that they will stop eating sweets or desserts, but they are looking for fewer ingredients and lower sugar content.
We just got back from the NAFEM equipment show. We saw a number of new blast chilling and chocolate making equipment innovations. What is your read?
My read is that space is always at a premium and labor is very pricey, so any equipment that can help improve productivity needs to be considered.
What advice would you give to your customers to get started using Ace Endico as a vendor?
Give us an opportunity, as we are a service-oriented company with a ton of dedicated and knowledgeable people working at the company. We would love to have all of your business, and are willing to start with a piece of the cake “for now”.
The pastry community is always looking for that next signature recipe. Can you help them source it/create it?
I can always be counted on for help, without getting in the way of the creativity or ego of the chef.
What’s the next step for an operator that wants more info?
Look for all that is arrived and coming soon. Go to our website and watch for all of our marketing material.