Yigit Pura and I have been friends for almost a decade and as the years have passed, one true thing remains — his absolute labor of love for the mastery of sugar, confection and all things pastry. I was not surprised at all, when he was a contender for the first of Top Chef Just Desserts, and I was absolutely thrilled when he won. During his last visit to Los Angeles, he joined me inside the stunning home of John Saint-Denis for a quick cooking lesson.
1. What does your dream kitchen consist of?
My dream kitchen would have nothing less than a top of the line Viking oven. For a home kitchen it's really the best. And being a pastry chef I would make sure I have a good working surface for prep, and I would go one step further and make this a wood working surface area, so if I were to do any laminated dough, scones, etc, I could get my hands dirty and get right to it. Also something people may not think of, but I think natural light is really important in a kitchen. Nature helps directly in being creative and inspired.
2. What are the most essential elements in a home kitchen?
A good layout, spacious work space, and making sure you have adequate storage space for all your ingredients and tools. Make sure it's a space where you're going to want to get in there and actually cook, not simply for magazine style aesthetics.
3. Besides dessert, what else do you love to cook?
I eat so much sugar, so when I'm at home I really cook very simple healthy dishes. I am obsessed with my rice cooker. I cook anything from rice to quinoa to barley in it. Set it before I get to work, when I get home from the gym it's ready. Some spiced wholesome grains, with sautéed dinosaur kale, and a good piece of local fish, that's my kick these days.
4. For all the "non chefs" what are the golden rules to a well equipped simple kitchen?
I'm of the school of thought to buy slowly, but buy good tools. A good set of knives will last you forever (but have them professionally sharpened at least once a year). Same goes for quality cookware. And always stay curious and when you go to specialty cooking stores, see what new gadgets they have, but feel free to ask them which would be used by actual professionals so you're not led to buying kitschy tools.
What are you making for us tonight?
Simple caramel and Indian spice poached bosc pears, honeyed-crème fraiche, and honey roasted almonds.
Prep time all together is about 1 hour, but the pears can be done days in advance. In fact, I like to poach them at least one day in advance, so they have more time to soak up and marry with the flavors.
Yigit Pura's Caramel & Indian Spice Poached Pears with Honeyed-Crème Fraiche & Honey Roasted Almonds
• Cook the sugar in as a dry caramel until it has a good brown color, until it barely starts to smoke, toss in the spices while it's hot to bring out the oils, and deglaze with the warm water (careful it will be SUPER hot), and bring back to a boil until the sugar dissolves. Let steep for one hour to extract the flavors of the pears.
• Bring syrup back to a boil, and place the peeled pear halves, poach very slowly for about 30-45 minutes until they are still al dente. Putting a plate directly on top will push them down so they will poach thoroughly. Reserve in the fridge over night, upto 3 days in advance.
• For the almonds, sauté the nuts with the honey until coated, and bake in a 325°FF oven until golden brown. Allow them to cool then chop them.
• Clean the insides of the pear halves, and place on a platter. Gently spoon the honey-crème fraiche mixture, then top with the candied nuts.
• Custom designed kitchen by the home owner himself, John Saint Denis.
Recipe prepared by Chef Yigit Pura.
(Images: Bethany Nauert)