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The Sweet Side of Sin City

By: Kerri-Lynn Swanson
Photos: Allen Carrasco & Chef Chris

Chef Chris came to the “City of Lights” for an experience. Starting out as an assistant pastry chef, Chris has grown into a pastry powerhouse dominating competitions and determined to leave his mark in the world of confectionary arts. We got to learn a little bit about what drives him to succeed and the sweet taste of victory. A west coast native, Chris grew up in Orange County, CA and attended culinary school at Orange Coast College and then headed off to France to study at the famed L’Ecole Du Grand Chocolat.

Upon his return stateside, Chef Chris studied under famed confectioner Ewald Notter. It was not long before Chef Chris took the opportunity to work as Assistant Pastry Chef at Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas under the direction of world-renowned Pastry Chef Jean Philippe Maury. In 2006, he was honored to become the executive pastry chef at the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Las Vegas. Nowadays, he can be found doing his own thing as founder of The School of Pastry Design in Las Vegas where his days are filled with anything from designing pastry menus to practicing for his next competition.

A Flair for Competition

Anyone who follows the Food Network Challenges should recognize Chef Chris. He has become a regular participant in the intense 8-hour competition, and his amazing show pieces domina te many of the competitions. Very rarely have Chef Chris and his team left without an oversized check and well-deserved bragging rights. His innovative and creative approach is constantly pushing the industry’s perception of what is possible. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that competition is second nature to Chris. As he explains, “I need a goal and I think that’s what helps me. I am not copying someone else. I am using my own experiences to do my own style.” In 2004, Chris left his first big mark in the competitive world of confectionary arts when he became the youngest person to win the World Pastry Championship at the age of 26. Competing against his well-seasoned peers, Chef Chris awed and impressed the judges with his precise and innovative work. Aside from a taste for victory, Chris learned a lot during those early competitions. “One of the biggest things I took away was really focusing on one thing and doing the best you possibly can. I think that it was the best experience because it is a good lesson for later on in life – if you do your best and give it your all, you can be successful.”

A few years ago, Chris began competing in televised challenges on the Food Network. Working with various mediums from sugar to chocolate, it was clear from the very first competition that Chris was not only well prepared for the intense pressure of this type of competition, he was actually quite good at it. His amazing works of edible art along with innovation and creativity tend to dominate many of the competitions. Yet Chris is not as interested in how his works of art hold up against the competitors.

As Chris tells us, “I enjoy doing the Food Network Challenges to give people a chance to see what I am capable of and what I am really all about. I never look at these (challenges) thinking about what I can do better than the next person; instead, I think about what I can do that makes me feel good.”

It was in 2010 that Chris decided to take his wealth of talent, experiences and passion for his industry and turn it into something special. The School of Pastry Design is a unique environment where professional chefs and eager individuals can get hands-on training from Chef Chris himself in his studio kitchen, something he has wanted to do for a long time. Says Chris, “I had done everything for everyone else. I’ve opened hotels, opened chains and it was just time for me to do something for myself, to be able to branch out and to show people my vision of pastry.”

Aside from teaching classes and hosting private events, Chef Chris’ ventures also include menu design and consultation as well as occasionally hosting local competitions where he gets to turn the tables and use his wealth of competitive knowledge to host and judge local events. Chef Chris’ favorite part of his newest venture: creative freedom. “I just get to be purely creative; now I have a space where I can sit and draw and think about what I envision is  going to be great and put it into the tools of the trade whether it be sugar, chocolate, or flavor.”

Explains Chris, it is amazing to see what he has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time and exciting to imagine what he has in store for the future. Along with continuing to develop his curriculum for his school, Chris is also looking forward to participating in more Food Network Challenges in the coming months. Keep up to date with Chef Chris through his website where you can check out photos of his magnificent show pieces, sign up for a class or schedule a private event.


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