Photography: Grant Kessler
Alex Stupak
Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110)
C.V.: The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York; Tru
Creative philosophy: “We approach pastry as a sophisticated form of texture manipulation.”
Weirdest ingredient ever used in a dessert: “To us nothing is really weird. We’re serving a dish using Chinese sausage.” Recent innovations include a pliable chocolate pudding made with sorbitol, a sugar alcohol.
Currently working on: A frozen capsule of coffee-flavored ice with a center that does not freeze. “I’m trying to serve something that’s seemingly impossible.”
Elissa Narow
Custom House (500 S. Dearborn St.; 312-523-0200)
C.V.: The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago; Trio, Blackbird, and Blue Water Grill
Creative philosophy: “I adapt to the chef I work with, so the desserts follow the menu and the concept of the restaurant.”
Weirdest ingredient ever used in a dessert: “Tiger nut, which I guess is used mainly for horchata. I’m working on making a panna cotta with it.”
Favorite kitchen tool: “If I can’t pick my hands, I would choose my offset spatula.”
Unique menu item: “I created a dessert sides category similar to a side-dish category on a dinner menu. Right now I have chocolate peanut butter fudge, macadamia brittle, and s’mores bars.”
Photography: Grant Kessler
Photography: Anthony Tahlier
Tara Lane
Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708)
C.V.: Le Cordon Bleu of Western Culinary Institute, Portland, Oregon; François Payard, New York City; the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Creative philosophy: “I work with little kids, teaching them how to cook desserts, at Common Threads. It opens my mind to not have boundaries with my own work.”
Weirdest ingredient ever used in a dessert: Eggplant in cake; tobacco in meringues; house-made bacon (which appears in her signature dessert, waffles with milk-chocolate semifreddo, meringue, and bacon).
Currently working on: Fennel granita; she also wants to use beets in a dessert.
Cindy Schuman
Kevin (9 W. Hubbard St.; 312-595-0055)
C.V.: After spending several years working in advertising, the self-taught pastry chef was offered a job at Highland Park’s Carlos’ and took it. Schuman has also worked at Aubriot and the Four Seasons Chicago.
Creative philosophy: There should always be a crowd pleaser-usually chocolate. “Right now I have a chocolate maracaibo-which is a more bitter chocolate-mousse with a caramel center. [It’s] served with a caramel mango rum sauce and mango sabayon.”
Weirdest ingredient ever used in a dessert: “I’ve worked with carrot sorbet, and made things with corn meal. I do things with rosemary vanilla ice cream, so I’ll play with herbs.”
Favorite kitchen tool: “A brown bowl scraper that I’ve had since day one. I’m pretty possessive about it. Everyone teases me about it.”
Photography: Courtesy Of Cindy Schuman