Taste of Yssingeaux
Home from pastry school in France, local chef makes gourmet desserts for Chico
Patrons of Tin Roof Bakery & Café may have noticed that there’s something different—a certain je ne sais quoi—in its pastry offerings of late. The taste of fresh mint pops in every divine bite of a bright-green, chocolate-filled macaron; a savory pastry bursts with brie cheese and slices of fresh fig; there is a subtle new-and-delicious sweetness and moistness to the madeleines.
Thank pastry chef Josh Graham for these delightful added twists on Tin Roof Bakery’s already popular and yummy fare.
In September, the 33-year-old returned to Tin Roof—where he worked for a number of years during the bakery’s early days, before it added a café. Graham—who also previously worked as a baker at the Upper Crust Bakery & Eatery—came back to Chico after completing a five-month pastry program at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie (ENSP) in the town of Yssingeaux, in south-central France, in 2012. School was followed by a two-month internship in a pastry shop in the “nougat capital of the world,” Montélimar (just south of Yssingeaux), and a nine-month stint working as a pastry chef in a European bakery in Boulder, Colo.
During a recent interview, Graham (who is married to Meredith Graham, News & Review staff writer for Client Publications) opened a portfolio containing photographs of some of the pastry masterpieces he made during his time at ENSP.
He flipped through photos of such mouthwatering-looking creations as a chocolate-laden Forêt Noire moderne entremet; a pretty, two-tiered religieuse (an “alcohol-soaked” pastry “with buttercream, and a jelly inside,” as Graham described it); a striking white-fondant-draped wedding cake adorned with deep-blue icing flowers; and a “deconstructed Oreo cookie.” But when he got to the fraise moderne entremet, he stopped and lingered: This is his favorite of all the desserts pictured.
Fraise is the French word for “strawberry”; an entremet is basically “a mousse cake,” as Graham put it in his characteristically understated way. But to actually call this chocolate-and-macaron-embellished confection a “strawberry mousse cake” would “sound too ‘diner,’” he noted.
“Before I went to [pastry school in] France, I had no idea that it was an actual thing,” continued Graham of the multi-layered dessert. Now, it would not be inaccurate to say that Graham is enamored of it.
He described the two-day process of making an entremet, a process that includes making a mousse (passion fruit, mango and vanilla are some of the go-to flavors he mentioned), layering it with cake and a fruit jelly in a mold to create the body, and covering the whole thing with an icing made from sugar, glucose and gelatin after the entremet has been allowed to freeze.
“The most terrifying process in the world is getting it off the wire rack and onto the serving board” after the warmed icing has been poured over it, Graham said, adding that he saw one student in his ENSP class “flip hers over onto the wire rack” when she tried to move hers.
“It’s just so pretty,” he said passionately of the entremet. “You don’t want to do anything to mess it up.
“I am in the process of making one right now” for Tin Roof, he said, adding, “I’m not sure how the public will receive it.”
Given the success so far of Graham’s contributions to the Tin Roof pastry lineup, it is hard to imagine that any customer would respond to the entremet with anything but the words “Très magnifique!”
Before traveling to France, Graham had never been outside of the United States; now, he is eager to share what he learned there with customers every day via his pastry offerings.
“It just makes me want to introduce stuff to people that they don’t necessarily know they want,” he said. “I mean, I had no idea what an entremet was, and it’s probably the most awesome thing you’ll ever eat in your life!”