Hearth Pastry Chef Siobhan DeCarlo Craves Texture, Simplicity, and Summer Ingredients
Siobhan DeCarlo wasn't always plotting a pastry chef career. "I was planning to get my PhD in English, and I couldn't get into any of the programs," she explains. "So I said, 'You know what -- I really love baking. I think I'm going to go to culinary school.'"
Apple cider doughnuts at Hearth
In DeCarlo's case, when one door closed, many doors to some of the most highly praised NYC kitchens opened -- starting with Hearth (403 East 12th Street, 646-602-1300), chef Marco Canora's Tuscany-inspired East Village eatery. It was here that she landed an externship-turned-pastry cook role in 2005; she worked there until she ventured over to Michael White's now shuttered Alto and Marea in 2008. When a pastry chef opportunity arose at Hearth two and a half years ago, DeCarlo rejoined Canora, and together, they celebrated the restaurant's 10-year anniversary this past November. In this interview, DeCarlo emphasizes the importance of simplicity on the plate, her love for textural variation in a dish, and how she really -- really -- cannot wait until summer.
How does it feel to be a part of a team that just celebrated the 10 year mark?
It's special to be here for that because I feel very connected to the restaurant and the people who work here. In total, I've worked here for about half the time that the restaurant has been open -- so that's pretty cool.
How have the desserts at Hearth evolved over 10 years?
The one thing that has not changed -- and I don't think it will ever change -- is the apple cider doughnuts, which are a classic dessert at Hearth. I've known all of the pastry chefs that have worked here, from the original one to the one who was here right before me. Everyone has had their own style of desserts, but they all are simple and rustic desserts that taste delicious; they're not really about show.
Have the apple cider doughnuts changed at all since the restaurant's opening?
Not really -- it's the same exact recipe. It's a very temperamental recipe, and I've learned that mixing it to the point where you think you're overmixing makes them come out perfectly -- so I feel like I've maybe figured out a way to make them these perfectly round doughnuts. When I first worked here we did a glaze with regular cider, and now I use a reduced cider, so it's an even more intense flavor.
What do you think it is about dishes like the doughnuts that make them staples and menu placeholders?
I just think that it's a really amazing recipe; it's delicious. They have that same warmth and hominess to them that the restaurant does -- and they give off that feeling that you're being taken care of. People love them.
How would you define your culinary style?
I am not into showy desserts -- at all. It's more important to me that they taste absolutely delicious. I just want them to be simple, I want them to taste good, and I want people to eat dessert and to have it remind them of home. I always have three components -- it's always going to be three different flavors. I'll have a sauce, a crunchy aspect, and then I like to do different things with hot and cold, with different temperatures. But it's always simple; that's what I strongly believe in. I'm not into the showy, tuille-y things. If someone tastes your dessert and it tastes amazing, they won't remember what it looks like -- they'll remember what it tasted like and how it made them feel.
Texture seems to play a big role in your desserts -- is this intentional?
I like [texture]. You want to have something creamy, something crunchy, something chewy. I try not to have one-dimensional desserts, where it's just cake and a scoop of ice cream, for example -- I like to have another aspect to the dessert, but in a very simple way.
Can you remember specific moments during your time in the pastry world that have shaped your approach in the kitchen?
I can remember the first pastry chef here at Hearth and talking with her about her style and the importance of making [the dish] taste good -- that they don't always have to look pretty, but they have to taste good. I'll always remember her saying that to me and thinking about how important that is. The second pastry chef that I worked for was Heather Bertinetti at Alto and Marea, and she emphasized the importance of having the texture and the sauces; having three elements on one plate. I always remember her saying that. So I think I've just kind of combined the two things. I keep thinking about different desserts that are my favorites, and they pretty much combine something I've learned, or they're recipes I got from each chef that I worked with.