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Best Pastry Chef 2019: Celeste Mah- Raymonds

Chamomile, dandelion, vinegar, chanterelle, seaweed, parsnip—not quite the usual stuff of dessert (well, maybe chamomile).

Presented by Cacao Barry

Since we’re talking about desserts coming from Raymonds restaurant on the rock called Newfoundland, we’re talking about creativity in the face of adversity. But that attitude is a bit of a cliché these days, as the team at Raymonds has proven for years that less really is more.

And the province once known for being “have not” is, in fact, a place of abundance. If, that is, you’re willing to work with nature.

With that in mind, just wait till you taste what happens when pastry chef Celeste Mah decides to turn a chanterelle or a parsnip into a sweet treat. Or when she revitalizes an old Newfoundland recipe for vinegar tart. Mah hails from Vancouver, where she worked at West as part of David Hawksworth’s brigade. She moved to St. John’s with her husband, Ross Larkin, chef de cuisine at Raymonds and recent Top Chef Canada victor.

In the five years Mah has spent cooking at Raymonds, she says, her desserts “have definitely become more refined and simplistic.” A focus on seasonal local and foraged items—say, pineapple weed, scotch lovage, black currant leaves and an assortment of wild berries—inspires invention. She made ice cream from chanterelles brought to the restaurant by forager Shawn Dawson “and blew his mind.”

“I love to create something that is visually appealing with a lot of different textures and temperatures,” Mah says, drawing parallels to her recent studies in pottery.

One of her favourite dishes involved a parsnip with its flesh removed and the skin fried to a shell. Mah filled it with roasted parsnip cream and parsnip granita, then dusted it with sugar made with the skin. “It was very surprising for guests,” she says. Lucky them.

— Dick Snyder

Lotte Andersson of Cacao Barry
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