|Chuck Draghi, chef-owner of Erbaluce|
In the episode “Plane Genius,” four top pastry chefs compete in three rounds: chocolate, candy and cake. Master pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel is the host, and the winner takes home a prize of $10,000.
Draghi has cooked at the James Beard House, won numerous awards and appeared on Simply Ming and other television shows, all despite the fact that he's never had any formal pastry or culinary training (he says he learned his craft by spending time with fellow pastry chefs).
His signature dessert at Erbaluce is a mascarpone-stuffed pear poached in white wine, honey, organic sugar, saffron and cinnamon. He reduces the poaching liquid, adds a touch of cream to make a caramel sauce and infuses it with lavender. Sounds like a killer combo to us! He plans to add a dessert featured on Sweet Genius to Erbaluce's menu - although he won't divulge which one in our chat with him:
Zagat: So did you win?
Draghi: I can’t tell you that.
Zagat: Did you make it through the second round?
Draghi: I’m not supposed to tell you that. Yeah.
Zagat: What was it like?
Draghi: It was more interesting and a lot of fun - more than I thought it would be. The kitchen setup was very utilitarian. I thought it would be more of a platform stage. Basically, they want you to break any chef habits, like you don’t need to wash out your pans. You have to think differently. No [saying] “behind you” when you’re moving around.
Zagat: What did you learn by doing the show?
Draghi: I learned that trusting the equipment is not the way to go; trust your instincts. I got into a little trouble with that and quickly adjusted. Your best gauge is your eyes, your tongue, your fingers.
Zagat: Can you talk about any desserts you made on the show?
Draghi: For the chocolate round I made a spiced white chocolate plate, and on top I had a chocolate ganache and mousse, spiced with a touch of cumin and pepper. I used milk chocolate and toast, like brioche and chocolate. I’m not a milk chocolate fan, but it was nice, buttery toast.
Erbaluce: 69 Church St.; 617-426-6969; erbaluce-boston.com