Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

COOKIES & CREAM: This Pastry Chef Bakes Nostalgia into His Desserts in Homage to His Grandmother's Holiday Cooking

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

COOKIES & CREAM: This Pastry Chef Bakes Nostalgia into His Desserts in Homage to His Grandmother's Holiday Cooking

Article excerpt

For many of us, cooking evokes nostalgia and can transport us back to another place and time--particularly to our childhood. We may recall looking up at the elder who passed culinary wisdom down to us. These experiences often shape what we like to eat--and cook. Recreating such dishes can provide a portal to a simpler time.

For Zac Young, the story lacks such romantic notions, because growing up, he says, "we ate so we didn't die. Food was fuel." Eating was a utilitarian pastime, not one focused on comfort, pleasure, connection, or adventure.

Named one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional in 2015, Young describes his own cooking as "over the top fun," with a creative approach that has led the out gay chef to frequent TV appearances (including Top Chef: Just Desserts, and Bakers vs. Fakers).

As the pastry director of Craveable Hospitality Group, which is dedicated to "transforming each meal into a cherished memory," the emotional power of food is certainly not lost on Young. But with a vegan mother cooking quinoa and kale "long before it was in vogue," Young's fondest food memories stem from holidays, when his grandmother "would show up with turkey and pies in the back of her truck." He had little interest in how her dishes were made, as long as they tasted good.

Back then, his culinary future wasn't obvious. Instead, Young seemed destined for the theater. He attended Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Upon graduation, the pursuit of musical theater took him to Boston Conservatory at Berklee. From there, he ended up working in the wig department at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Though it might seem an unlikely breeding ground for a career in the culinary arts, it was here that Young's gears shifted.

"I started baking cookies for Christmas because we never did that growing up," he remembers. Doing so introduced him to "creativity within the confines of science. …

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