Too often I’m guilty of turning down dessert at the end of a meal.
That was not the case this month, because I sat down with Katy Waltz, the talented head pastry chef at Brewery Vivant (925 Cherry St, Grand Rapids). Waltz, 31, of Grand Rapids, talked desserts and beers. Here’s what she had to say.
So when did you start at Vivant?
I just hit my two-year anniversary.
Have you always been around GR?
No. I grew up in Indiana, born in Ohio. I went to Purdue for Tourism and Hospitality Management. I really wanted to quit there and go to culinary school, but my parents said, “No, you have to finish and get your Bachelor’s.” They kind of convinced me to stick it out. I’m glad I did because I met one of my chef instructors there. He had done an apprenticeship at a resort on Sea Island in Georgia. He said, “Don’t go to culinary school, it’ll put you $30,000 in debt. You should do this old-school apprenticeship and you’ll get paid for your education.” I think I was one of 15 people who applied, eight of us got in, and I think three of us graduated. It’s a really competitive program. I was the first pastry apprentice to graduate from there in 10 years.
Those are some high honors.
Yeah, but it could be really stressful too. It was, and still is, a five-star restaurant. So it was definitely that five-star experience. You couldn’t talk during service. It was very demanding. It just beats you down.
I was here when you guys ran that Fried Banana Cheesecake special. Wow.
Nice. Usually I try to do a little fancier stuff, but sometimes you just have to wrap some cheesecake in a wonton and fry it, you know?
What’s your process of designing a dessert?
There are a couple of different factors. Sometimes I just have a craving and I make something because I want to eat it. Other times I’m having my morning coffee and I’ll see something on Pinterest. I’ll be like, “I can make that better.”
How often does beer factor into this method?
If we’re having a really cool beer coming out, I’ll think of something to accompany that beer. Recently I made 50 gallons of caramel sauce to put into a beer. It was literally a trash can full. But there’s also more challenging [beers to complement], like Zaison, which is a grapefruity kind of beer — there’s the citrus notes in there. It’s kind of peppery. But there are so many different factors that contribute: What’s in season? It’s endless.
I love the food at Brewery Vivant, but lately I’ve skipped right over it and gone for the dessert. Is that just me?
Dessert has been catching on here lately. Ice cream has been huge. We have salted chocolate on the menu and I have to have black cardamom on hand for the Liège waffle. I always have to have vanilla for the root beer floats and the beer floats. I thought ice cream was going to be slow during the winter, but we ran a rosemary mascarpone once and it sold like crazy.
If you went on a dessert crawl though GR, where else are you going?
I have a really bad ice cream tooth, so I’d say Love’s Ice Cream [435 Ionia Ave. SW]. I shop at Nourish Organic Market [634 Wealthy St. SE] three times a week and I always buy the little teeny-tiny ones he sells there because you don’t feel so bad. But honestly, I’m nibbling on so many things here that I don’t get that dessert craving as much as you’d think.