“Have you been to Michael’s Genuine since they started brunch? You have to try Hedy’s Pop-Tarts!” I must have had at least a dozen people use a variation on this statement to me a few years back, when I was stationed in Miami and pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith began applying her considerable talents to the end of the menu at Michael Schwartz’s rightfully acclaimed restaurant. In a city that’s high on glamour and buzz, Goldsmith often swoops in and steals the show.
Take her sweet basil panna cotta with strawberry consommé. Or a warm banana toffee panini sandwich with a salted caramel ice cream sundae. Or those super-flaky pop tarts, stuffed with fresh fruit that oozes out with every bite, just one of the childhood favorite desserts that Goldsmith has re-imagined and turned into a contemporary dessert treat.
When friends are headed to Miami and ask my advice for dining spots, I always recommend Michael’s, and I suggest that the meal end with whatever lemon concoction that Goldsmith has dreamed up; maybe it’s the years that this Philly native has spent in the tropics, but man does she have a way with citrus. Goldsmith is joining Andrea Reusing and Food Republic co-founder Marcus Samuelsson at the Red Rooster Dinner during the New York City Wine & Food Festival (it’s a sold-out event — sorry!) this weekend. In the meantime, here’s what she has to say about sweets, those pop-tarts and why women make better pastry chefs than men.
As I recall, you were kind of retired from the pastry scene before you joined Michael’s. What convinced you to come back?
Actually not retired, I decided to change direction. I geared up to start a new venture in baking this time on the retail and wholesale side — developing a specialty line of sweets to be sold in high-end markets and online. Then Michael approached me with a sweet deal. He had just opened MGFD and wanted me to be the pastry chef. The offer sounded too good to pass up.
Your desserts have a playfulness and a modern side — what made you deviate from the standards?
These days I don’t take myself too seriously. My love for childhood treats became a new standard. Giving people the opportunity to relive their childhood memories with familiar desserts make me very happy. Elevating the stuff to pastry chef level makes it taste less synthetic and even more delish. Hell, who doesn’t love a Pop Tart?
In your opinion, why is dessert an essential ending to a great meal?
Ending a meal without something sweet is criminal. I feel the palate completes its journey through several salty and sweet courses and needs a sweet element to shake it up, mix it up. It doesn’t have to be overly sweet. It can be a taste, a bite, but it needs to happen. Face it, we pastry chefs are an essential element to a flawless dining experience.
Since Food Republic is aimed at men, I’d like to ask you a leading question: Should men even try to become great pastry chefs, or are women naturally better with desserts?
In my opinion, women have better organizational skills, and more patience, by far. I have known several talented male pastry chefs. However, I firmly believe women rule in the sweet department, period. We bake with passion and emotion. Passionate chefs make better desserts.
What can you tell me about your signature pop tarts? Why do people react so strongly to them?
I think everyone has eaten at least one Pop Tart in their lifetime. I’ve built a cult following around this flaky toaster tart. The honest no bullshit answer is that my Pop Tarts are made with the freshest local seasonal fruit. This sets them apart from the original store-bought variety. The dough is made by hand with tons of sweet butter. A Pop Tart is just pastry and jam, so they best be made well and with lots of love.
Are you a chocolate lover yourself?
I REALLY love bittersweet chocolate. As a kid, I would eat white or milk chocolate. Today my palate is a bit more grown-up and my choice in chocolate reflects that as well.
Any hints of what you’ll be making in NYC?
At Red Rooster with Marcus, I’m making a Granny Smith Apple & Feta Cheese Crostada served family-style with a trio of homemade ice creams: Black Licorice, Crème Fraîche, Sweet Basil and Black Mission Fig-Pistachio. To top it off, I’ll be serving Salted Caramel Sauce, Roasted White Chocolate Crumbles and Spiced Candied Scotch Pecans.