A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend a fantastic evening with some of my favorite food blogger friends at The Dutch Miami in the W South Beach Hotel. (http://www.miabites.com/home/2016/5/22/the-dutch-summer-on-miami-beach).
All of the savory dishes were amazing, but I was beyond impressed with the desserts, so I knew I had to circle back and chat it up with Pastry Chef Josh Gripper. With 15 years of pastry under his belt he continues to be passionate about what he’s doing. Yesterday I spent a rainy afternoon with him, and I not only got to eat more delicious desserts, I got to learn how he got his start in such a sweet world and even discovered his love for ice cream – more specificially, Häagen-Dazs Mint Chocolate Chip!
Tell us a bit of your background and what made you decide to go into pastry?
I went to school for savory because that’s what I thought I wanted to do. I first went to Butter (in New York before Alex Guarnaschelli was there) and it was more of a crazy club restaurant with a chef named Keith Harry and a couple club owners. I went in before they opened and talked to the chef and asked him for a job. He said they weren’t open yet and had no positions so I told him I would work for free until he opened. So I did, I went there every day for a month after school.
I did whatever they wanted me to do – peel stuff, cut stuff, make soups, stocks, risotto, while they developed the menu. When the restaurant opened, he told me that they didn’t have any cook positions available but they had pastry spot and they would let me work pastry and in six months they would switch me over to start in Garde Manger. That’s where I met a chef named George McKirdy, he has a bakery now in Queens called Astor Bake Shop. He was the first pastry chef I worked for. He showed me a lot of stuff and it was super cool and I would go home and study and read a pastry book on the train every day and I just got really really into it and six months later when they asked me to switch, I said “No, I think I’m going to do this!” And years later I’m still doing pastry.
What has the most influence on your menu?
I think like most chefs, a lot of your influences come from where you started and the style of cooking you grew up with. I was at Butter for about a year and when the chef when to Café Boulud I went with him. I was in the Daniel Boulud camp for about five years and that was a huge influence. That restaurant was solely focused on seasonal ingredients and experimenting with different cultures. They had a section of the menu called “The Voyage” and they would pick a region of the world where they would play with the dishes of that culture so I got to see a lot of different styles of food and taste different styles of food. But it all focused around the theme of clean flavors and great execution. It was a very Zen, simple, clean style with big flavors. That’s pretty much my style still today.
What’s your favorite dessert currently on the menu?
My favorites dish right now is the Peaches & Cream. Mostly because it sounds really simple but there’s a lot of thought behind it. We take just the simple taste of peaches with cream and embellish it to have a lot of elements and flavors that play very well together. You have the peaches and the whipped cream, but then there’s lemon chiffon cake and a yellow cake ball that’s shaped into a truffle that’s coated in white chocolate and dipped in powdered sugar, then there’s the champagne sorbet and the hibiscus sauce. Then the cream that’s infused with fresh ginger and bay leaf and orange. We add some tarragon on the plate too, so there’s really a lot of very bold flavors.
As a baker I know being surrounded by sweets doesn’t stop you from eating them yourself, what’s the one dessert you can’t say no to – your biggest guilty pleasure?
Ice cream. It’s the thing that I go crazy for. I usually get it on my day off, preferably soft serve. I went to Disney recently and was upset they didn’t have a soft serve machine there. I couldn’t believe it. I’ll go to Häagen-Dazs, Gelateria 4D, Azucar or really whatever is around on my days off. My favorite flavor is Mint Chocolate Chip. It’s my super guilty pleasure, straight up – nothing on it, just give me ice cream.
I really enjoyed getting a peek inside the mind of Chef Gripper. His desserts show his passion and dedication to his craft. With so many elements and fun flavors, it’s hard to pick just one. I don’t think I could possibly pick a favorite! Just look at them – mouthwatering and so creative:
Peaches & Cream
Poached Peaches, Yellow Cake Balls, Hibiscus Sauce, Lemon Chiffon Shards, Champagne Sorbet, Fresh Tarragon, Peach Sauce, Orange-Bay Leaf-Ginger Cream Infusion.
Salted Key Lime Pie
Graham Cracker Crust, Key Lime Custard, Guava Sauce, Passion Fruit Gel, Coconut Sorbet, Toasted Coconut
Banana Fosters Ice Cream Cake
Banana Fosters Ice Cream, Milk Crumb, Blackberry Sorbet, Caramelia Chocolate Glaze, Crunchy Meringue, Mango-Fresno Sauce, Cilantro Syrup, Fresh Blackberries, Fresh Bananas, Fresh Cilantro
Chocolate & Cherries
Chocolate Hazelnut Cream, Devil’s Food Cake, Chocolate Mousse, Shaved Chocolate, Black Cherry Sauce, Roasted Cherries, Fresh Mint, Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
The Dutch Miami is a cozy spot that I recommend everyone puts on their to-do list. The food is delicious but it’s totally worth just stopping by to say hello to Chef Gripper, skip straight to dessert, and allow yourself to sink into a deep sugar coma.
2201 Collins Ave
Miami Beach FL
305 938 3111