Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Danica Pollard wows at the James Beard Awards

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2009 at 9:30 AM

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Amidst all the excitement of the James Beard Awards last week, I somehow overlooked that Kansas City was represented by more than just Colby Garrelts and Debbie Gold. Lidia's pastry chef Danica Pollard was also there, serving a toasted almond rose bonet with strawberry and rhubarb sauce and candied rose petals.

Her dish was one of the highlights of the night. This person called the dish, "gorgeous to look at and taste." The blog Not Fine Dining said it was one of only two crave-worthy options:

The other morsel of deliciousness came from the pastry chef at Lidia Bastianich's restaurant in Kansas City.... I've become accustomed to New York ways and expect New York to have some of the better food in the country. But Danica Pollard, the pastry chef, made an impression last night. She put out the only other dish that made me wish I weren't in public so I could wipe my plate clean with my tongue ... the ultra sweet custardy flan sang notes of a smooth baritone on the tongue. The result was a symphony of flavors that left my mouth in search of more high and low, tangy and creamy sensations. I was so happy, after tasting all the other dishes, to sample something that was so perfectly nuanced, that my faith was restored in the event.
Praise doesn't come much higher than that.

"I had a pretty awesome response," Pollard told me yesterday, "you never really know what the response is going to be and it was really gratifying to interact and see people's pure reaction."

For Pollard, the event meant not only cooking for some of the world's finest and famous chefs but returning to New York. Although she's from the Kansas City area, she went to culinary school in the Big Apple and worked at some famous restaurants there.

Her star-studded resume includes stints at Nobu and Jean-Georges Vongerichten's 66. She returned to

Kansas City to be around her family -- "you don't get many holidays off

in this business" -- and has been at Lidia's for nearly two years. She

wasn't expecting to return to New York but in January an envelope arrived

in the mail. "I didn't even look to see who it was from and when I read

it I was actually quite shocked."

Pollard had to submit two dishes, knowing she'd have

to feed 1,000 and that she wouldn't have any refrigeration. The committee

chose her bonet, which she said was a relief. "It was the dish I wanted

to make ... I knew the dinner was in May and it has a very feminine

spring sort of a feel. I also knew that I wanted to use rhubarb

because it's pretty under-appreciated."

Pollard has put the toasted-almond bonet on Lidia's menu until the end

of the month and is getting ready for that next envelope in the mail. "If

they would have me again, I'd love to go!"

(Image via James Beard Foundation)

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