"Dreams become goals once you realize how to achieve them.
The most important thing is just to keep your head
down and do the work. After that it's all cake."
I remember the first time I heard about Michael Laiskonis. My sous-chef at the time, Viviana Altesor told me I should go stage with him once I had moved to NYC. After tons of research and looking through photos of his desserts, I decided Le Bernardin would be my first fine dining experience (ever). At the age of 21 I sat in the dining room and felt like a newly born child looking at the world for the first time. The service, atmosphere and food was so awe-inspiring. It was the year Laiskonis won the James Beard award for outstanding pastry chef (actually two days after). I remember his desserts like it was the last meal I had; the precision, the design and flavors were ... perfect. I may not have known at the time, but I knew what I was tasting was perfect. I told myself this is what I want to be.
I staged for around seven days at Le Bernardin. Like most stages, I was amazed, afraid and overwhelmed with interest. After the first night, I remember riding the train back to Brooklyn simply amazed that I had the chance to work with such a great chef, team and restaurant. I was so taken back at how calm, gracious and knowledgeable he was, given all of the pressure and stress. It was about the food, the guests, and nothing else. The magnitude of knowledge I gained in just those seven days has been with me since, like an echo in my head.
Six years later I found myself sitting across from Michael Laiskonis himself, at the end of his last service at Le Bernadin. His last service. The last of his desserts. The end of an era. The dinner went down as one of the best I have ever had to this day. It was a surreal moment, one I will carry the rest of my career. I am so honored and so incredibly grateful to have had that experience. Upon the last dessert course, I took a moment to reflect back to the young, naive and eager me six years ago and how I have grown as a chef. I found myself leaving the dining room saying the same thing I had said six years ago; this is what I want to be.
Thank you to a great chef, mentor and friend. Myself (and a thousand other pastry chefs) cannot wait to see what is next for you.