In the world of pastry, there are few jobs as coveted as executive pastry chef at Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert’s tribute to seafood in New York City. As of July 28, Chicago's Thomas Raquel will run the pastry department. “To even be considered for the job was huge,” the 27-year-old chef says. “And now, getting the job, I feel like I'm Charlie — I got the golden ticket.”
His training for the “job of a lifetime” began at L2O where he worked under Laurent Gras. In 2012, he joined the team at Acadia and was soon after recognized on Zagat's 30 Under 30 in 2013. His final day in the South Loop was Saturday, when he was replaced by pastry chef Ji Yoon, formerly of The Gage and recently closed Henri. Raquel’s workload will undergo a dramatic increase when he moves from the 100-seat restaurant to the Manhattan behemoth that serves 400 patrons for dinner in addition to lunch and lounge service.
A team of more than a dozen pastry cooks will help execute Raquel's vision. His first menu debuts in the fall — his favorite season — during which canelé, roasted apples and other classic sweets with modern twists will be featured among the eight desserts. “I live the season,” Raquel says. “So I think seasonality is going to be a main focus and the product is going to be the star.” Future plans involve changing the lunch menu to incorporate tarts and French pastries — a lighter alternative to plated desserts — as well as offering a dessert tasting menu.
The restaurant's current pastry program, which has been run by Laurie Jon Moran since 2012, has focused on French pastries like mille-feuille and Opera cake while also offering elevated version of American staples including s’mores. They're designed to complement the light seafood-centric fare that has earned the restaurant a coveted four-star review from the New York Times for 20 years.