After the pastry chef Patrick Fahy left to cake and bake at The French Laundry, the Trump Tower announced Aya Fukai as its executive pastry chef, overseeing banquets, the bar Rebar, and the four-star restaurant Sixteen (401 N. Wabash Ave., River North, 312-588-8030).
Her own work has begun to filter into the banquet, lunch, and bar menus, and will debut on the big dinner stage at Sixteen when a new tasting menu is introduced in March. Fukai, whose work we admired at Ria and Balsan, introduced herself in an interview, condensed and edited here.
On her education: Most of my family is in science. I started at Boston University in pre-med to become a pediatrician. After my sophomore year, I decided to transfer to hospitality school. While taking classes, one of my professors brought me in to a back-of-house internship at the BU Club. I learned on the job.
How to create a successful dessert: A lot of times, you simply want to create things for your family, friends, boyfriend, or yourself. When I make something for someone, I believe it has more heart—and of course, it’s going to taste better.
Desserts of hers you can sample now, on Sixteen’s lunch menu: Right now I have pistachio crepe with citrus and crème fraiche. I also have a goat cheese cheesecake with caramel, wine-poached apples, and brown sugar crumble.
On career directionality: Little children say they are growing up to be an astronaut or a princess or something like that. I always said, “I am going to be a pastry chef so I can eat sweets all day long.” For some reason, it ended up being true for me.
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