Dessert: The happily-ever-after of dinner
Today’s column marks the beginning of my 11th year of weekly scribbles on this page! Seems like only yesterday when I was summoned to Editor-in-Chief Trish Vernon’s ivory tower (well, OK … her tiny office - but it does have two windows…) to kibitz about some sort of restaurant column. So it only seems fitting to commemorate that beginning by celebrating the culinary exclamation point after a satisfying meal. Dessert!
A couple of weeks ago I heard a (brilliantly produced) radio program featuring two of our talented pastry chefs here in the Cape Region. Dru Tevis is the corporate pastry chef for SoDel Concepts’ 12 busy restaurants, and new-kid-on-the-block Ellie Keck is the diva of desserts at The Clubhouse at Baywood. The presence of a pastry chef is one of the signs that a restaurant has “arrived,” but with all the ice cream dippers, caramel corn caramelizers and chocolate drizzlers here at the beach, it just didn’t seem practical. Well, that was then and this is now: Rehoboth Beach is a recognized dining destination, and creative desserts are a must.
Dru Tevis has certainly made a name for himself here in the Nation’s Summer Capital, and has graced kitchens both here and in New York City. Like many of us, a somewhat-younger-than-he-is-now Dru vacationed here and associated great memories with our sand and surf. As a last hurrah before embarking on a film/video program at The American University in Washington, D.C., he spent the summer of 2009 working for Glenda Adkins at Blue restaurant on The Avenue (used to be Eden, then Taste and is now Cilantro). He was pinch-hitting as a bartender when a position became available (that’s restaurant-speak for “somebody didn’t show up”). Suddenly he was in the kitchen whippin’ up desserts. Well, one thing led to another and … oops - what’s that sound!? It’s Dru’s film career fading away. And that was a good thing: We can survive without one more movie, but fresh, handmade desserts? That’s another story.
Tevis knew that he needed to fill in some blanks with formal education. So he left The American University in a cloud of powdered sugar and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York City, joining such notable alumni as TV chef/restaurateur Bobby Flay and New York molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne. Our youthful upstart was a hot item in the Big Apple, and he quickly landed positions at the hoity-toity Momofuku Milk Bar and The Dutch restaurants in New York. He traveled to Italy, London and Paris for specialized cooking classes, but never forgot his full-time life in Rehoboth Beach. After successful stints at Shorebreak Lodge, Hobos, Blue Moon, Bramble & Brine, Modern Mixture and Nage (now Fork & Flask), he found his home at SoDel Concepts.
I first met the multi-talented Ellie Keck while dining at 1776 Steakhouse. No, she wasn’t brûléeing, crystallizing or souffléeing; she was playing the piano! But while she was doing double duty as a server and entertainer, she was dreaming of furthering her education in the cooking arts. Culinary school tuitions are extremely expensive, so she applied for - and won - a RehobothFoodie.com/Touch of Italy Culinary Scholarship and enrolled in the International Culinary Institute in New York. (Coincidentally enough, that school used to be the French Culinary Institute - Dru’s alma mater!)
She graduated with flying colors and eventually found her way to SoDel Concepts. The timing was perfect: The busy restaurant group needed a creative toque to do desserts at their newly acquired Clubhouse at Baywood, and Ellie was perfectly suited for the job. In fact, she has carved out a special niche for herself in the world of sugars, creams and butters: “Her creations are particularly whimsical and colorful,” says Dru, “the desserts at Baywood have a little bit of a magical look about them. Lots of layered things; lots of really bright colors.” Ellie sums it up perfectly: “The artistic element of being a pastry chef is my favorite part. I love making things that are pretty and fun to look at. It’s very satisfying.”
And that’s what desserts are all about. Satisfaction. They say that cheffing is a labor of love, and it’s no secret that talented cooks like Dru and Ellie love what they do. And you can taste it in every course - including dessert.