Mark Welker and the sweet fellowship

The pastry-chef from Eleven Madison Park will be among the speakers at Dossier Dessert at Identità 2017. An ace worth discovering

12-01-2017

Milk and honey, the signature dessert from Mark Welker, executive pastry chef at Eleven Madison Park (3 Michelin stars and 3rd in the World's 50Best) and The Nomad in New York. The American pastry chef will be among the speakers at Dossier Dessert, an event enriching the afternoon on the opening day of Identità Milano, on Saturday 4th March 2017 (photo Studiotraveler/Tabelog)

For the first time since it was created, Dossier Dessert – the fine pastry-making afternoon at Identità Golose – will be held on the first day of the congress (Saturday 4th March) and not the last (traditionally on Tuesday, but this year the curtain will fall on Monday). By clicking here you can read the names of the important speakers summoned by Paolo Marchi and École du Grand Chocolat Valrhona, historic supporter of the sweet session.

We will open with a homage to Iginio Massari (Mariella Caruso wrote about it here), followed by lectures from Corrado Assenza, Catalan Andrea Dopico Cafarelli, Andrea Tortora from Cremona but working in Alto Adige, American Mark Welker, Gianluca Fusto together with other ex Aimo e Nadia pastry chefs, Beppe Allegretta, Mario Peqini and Galileo Reposo and finally “Japanese” Fabrizio Fiorani and Luca Fantin.

Today we introduce the only American pastry chef in the group, Mark Welker. Since 2015 he’s been the executive pastry chef at Make It Nice, a group comprising Eleven Madison Park (3 Michelin stars, 3rd in the World’s 50Best), The Nomad and Made Nice, three famous establishments owned by chef Daniel Humm and maître David Guidara in New York (these will become 5 in the next few months, with the opening of Nomad in Los Angeles and 45 Park, another fine dining establishment scheduled to open in New York by 2018. After the memorable lecture on dining room and kitchen given by Humm and Guidara at Identità Milano 2015, with Welker we come full circle, so to speak, with the strongest team in the US.

Mark Welker, at the helm of a team of 30 pastry makers between Nomad NY and EMP. The staff will increase with the (imminent) opening of Nomad in Los Angeles and 45 Park, another fine dining establishment expected to open in New York by 2018 (photo EMP)

Mark Welker, at the helm of a team of 30 pastry makers between Nomad NY and EMP. The staff will increase with the (imminent) opening of Nomad in Los Angeles and 45 Park, another fine dining establishment expected to open in New York by 2018 (photo EMP)

Raised in Indiana with the aroma of his mother’s ginger bread, his destiny was already set: after high school he attended culinary school in Louisville, Kentucky, and learnt the basics at Larry Forgione’s An American Place. He attended the French Culinary Institute in New York, where he explored and became passionate about bread. «But I wanted to go to France», he said going through his biography in an interesting podcast you can listen to on Stitcher, «because I wanted to understand where pastry making was born. I went to Bezier. With hindsight, I recommend everyone should do it but it’s not strictly necessary: travelling too much can be damaging in the long run. And in any case in America we have all it needs to learn to become a successful pastry maker».

Once back in the US, he helped a friend open a coffee shop in St Louis and right after that he read an ad: Eleven Madison Park is hiring. «I want to be there», he thinks. He applies and becomes part of the team. In 2008 the restaurant doesn’t even have a star: they will get 3 in a row between edition 2010 and 2012, a stunning escalation. «I started by working headlong», says Mark, and in little over a year he was already pastry sous-chef.

Another dessert from Welker, with chocolate and banana (photo EMP)
 

Another dessert from Welker, with chocolate and banana (photo EMP)
 

Since 2015 he leads a team of some 30 pastry makers, equally divided between EMP and Nomad: «An incredible workforce. We obviously don’t just do desserts but all the bread too, breakfast at the hotel, outside events... The other day we calculated we make 3,500 muffins per week». Difficult? «Our job requires a big effort, serious people and good guys ready to work hard. Unfortunately we live in the millennium fever: younger chefs leave without even working one whole year. This is what frustrates me». What does it take to stay on board? «Be clean and organised. Nothing good will ever come from a dirty pastry maker».

The best dessert you ever made? «Milk and Honey at Nomad: it’s made with dehydrated milk foam, honey shortbread and buckwheat honey. We finish it with salt, like every single dessert we make, which must always be balanced: not too sweet, with the right acidity, the result of a balanced meeting of textures, hot and cold, creamy and crispy. Salt sort of sums all this up…». To find out more, we’ll have to wait for Saturday 4th March at 4.40 p.m.


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Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose