MEET THE CHEF
Bravo Top Chef star, restaurateur, and pastry chef extraordinaire Elizabeth Falkner teamed up with luxury gift brand Harry & David to create three seasonally inspired recipes to help spice up this year’s holiday menu. The talented culinary artist has been a regular on the televised world of food, acting as both a competitor for Iron Chef America in 2006 and for Bravo’s Top Chef Masters in 2009 and as a judge on Top Chef Masters and Top Chef. Known for her incredible “cakescapes,” Falkner will be returning to the Food Network for the upcoming season of The Next Iron Chef, premiering next month. Take a look below for an exclusive interview with the chef and to learn how to make a few of Falkner’s recipes prepared especially for Harry & David.
Location: New York
Type of Cuisine: Southern Italian
Accolades: "Best Pastry Chef" by San Francisco magazine, Nominated "Best Pastry Chef of the Year" by James Beard Foundation
JustLuxe: There are so many different specialties with cooking, what drew you to pastry? Do you find you can express yourself more artistically with pastry than cooking entrée-type dishes?
Elizabeth Falkner: I love cooking and learning more every day in cooking. I look at food as I would languages or art and my vocabulary and palate keep expanding. I continue to do pastry and have been doing savory all along and it's a beautiful marriage.
JL: How did you fall in love with cooking/baking?
EF: I love baking and started as a kid by revamping and trying to improve the chocolate chip cookie. I have a thing for cakes and ice creams and cookies and fruit desserts and I have a thing for perfection with personality. Pastry and baking speaks to my needs.
JL: You’ve been both a competitor and a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef shows. Do you enjoy one more than the other?
EF: Competition is where it is at! I love the rush of competing myself but am thrilled to see what others end up making under extra pressure.
JL: How did you prepare for the Next Iron Chef show, premiering next month? Can you prepare for these competitions, or is always a mixed-bag of expectations?
EF: To prepare for competition for television, I rehearse what I am all about in sound bites. I also practice cooking drills "on the clock," buy strange ingredients and make myself come up with something, and I get in really good physical and mental shape because it is hard on your body and your head.
JL: You have a new restaurant opening in Brooklyn. New York in its entirety is such an incredible landscape for cuisine. Brooklyn especially has really been seeing resurgence in popularity over the past few years. How did you decide on Brooklyn?
EF: Why not Brooklyn? My business partner is born and raised in Brooklyn. It's all new to me and I have wanted to live in NY for some time now. I love the energy here and the pace.
JL: Brooklyn also has such ethnic and cultural diversity. You can find absolutely amazing, authentic Haitian, Puerto Rican, and African food in these hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Is the concept of your new restaurant influenced by Brooklyn’s cultural diversity in any way? What will Krescendo’s concept be?
EF: Krescendo is Southern Italian influenced and focused. We make homemade pasta and do Neopolitan pizza and classic Italian pizza as well as contemporary interpretations of classic antipasti as well as seasonal salads and desserts, including gelato.
JL: With the holidays coming up, cooking and preparing meals for family gatherings starts to the most popular topic everywhere you look. It often stresses people out. What is one of your tried and true, favorite holiday recipes?
EF: For the holidays I recommend having some of my Harry & David Upside Pear Crunch Coffee Cake any time of day or night and to pair with that, Egg Nog 'A Ritas from my new cookbook, Cooking Off The Clock. Both recipes are easy and pair well together. Try using a little Poir William a.k.a pear brandy, in place of the brandy in the recipe for the cocktail.
Recipe for Elizabeth Falkner's Upside Pear Crunch Coffee Cake