Mark Welker, the executive pastry chef of Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad (New York, USA)
Mark Welker. Photo: courtesy of Eleven Madison Park
Mark Welker has been with Eleven Madison Park since 2009, when he first began working in the restaurant as a line cook. Working beside Daniel Humm he developed a great passion for fine dinning, especially pastry. His proficiency in pastry and bread baking led to him being named pastry sous chef of Eleven Madison Park and he was integral in pushing the restaurant’s bread and pastry programs to new heights. In 2012 he became the pastry chef of The NoMad, crafting a bakery and pastry program, and oversaw service of the restaurant and hotel from viennoiseries to dessert service. In 2015 he was named executive pastry chef of both Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad. Eleven Madison Park is with the fith place on World’s 50 best restaurants list the highest ranked restaurant in USA.
How would you present yourself?
I am Mark Welker, the Executive Pastry Chef of Made Nice (Eleven Madison Park, The NoMade, …) in New York.
What does chocolate mean for you?
In many ways, chocolate is like wine. It is heavily influenced by terroir and the chocolatier who makes the chocolate. In many ways, it is an Artisan craft in its purest form. As chefs, it’s our responsibility to use it wisely and not ruin the integrity and flavor of the chocolate. Also, creatively we can manipulate chocolate to create many different forms, shapes and textures.
Why have you chosen this dessert/dish? What is in your opinion so special about it?
Because it’s delicious and these are flavors that we like to see with chocolate desserts. It’s special because we took a classic American dessert, that many enjoy as a kid, and put a spin on it.
Tell us please about the flavors, temperatures and textures that describe this dessert.
Anytime we create a dessert, texture is always very important. We like to have a hot and cold contrast. We always try to find a balance between salty and sweet. We also like to make sure that there are crunchy textures and some soft and creamy textures. The dessert at heart is chocolate, but is accompanied by cardamom, orange, brandy and peanuts. Some of these ingredients can be very strong in flavor, so it was a balancing act trying to make sure that one did not overpower the other.
What has inspired you to create it? How was it born?
The inspiration behind it was the Frozen Banana. In America, you often find frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and rolled in peanuts at fairs and festivals. We thought we could improve this idea.
Does it require any special technique?
Yes, the technique for the frozen bananas requires liquid nitrogen. We put the banana ice cream in a piping bag with a tip, and pipe it until it curls and cut it into the liquid nitrogen. After it’s frozen, it’s dipped in a chocolate shell and laid on a bed of chopped peanuts.
What was the special challenge with it?
Making sure that the bananas stay warm and the ice cream does not melt as it goes to the guest.
Any final message for our readers?
At the end of the day, chocolate is meant to bring pleasure to our guests. Have fun with it, be creative and keep tasting because there are a lot of really interesting single origin chocolates popping up.