Native Washingtonian Aggie Chin originally planned a career in law but, seduced by food blogs, soon traded her legal pads for cake pans. She first worked with revered chef Frank Ruta at Palena, and now the two make an exceptional team at Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown. As the executive pastry chef, Chin creates deliciously whimsical desserts for the hotel’s restaurant, The Grill Room. Recognizing her expertise, the D.C. restaurant association crowned her 2015 Pastry Chef of the Year.
Why specialize in pastry, rather than savory dishes?
Pastry is a great marriage of science and art. The recipes and processes used to produce desserts are extremely precise and scientific. But when a guest orders a dessert, the artistic plating and manipulation of each component are what they see.
Where do you find inspiration for new recipes?
Most of the time, I like putting a new spin on classic desserts or flavor combinations.
Describe one of your latest creations.
I recently unveiled the “Bubble, Pop, Electric,” a strawberry sorbet made in-house from champagne granite, Opalys crémeux [a white chocolate cream] and champagne sabayon [similar to custard]. The dessert’s name describes the feeling of each spoonful, when the pop rocks, champagne and Co2 combine to create a total sensory experience.
How does the reality of working as a pastry chef compare with what’s portrayed on TV cooking shows?
I think that, as with anything else, the reality of everyday business is much less romantic.
Why do sweets matter?
Every creature has to eat to survive, but we humans can dine for pleasure. Sweets are what we get after a painful shot, or in childhood as a reward for finishing our vegetables. They make us smile and forget the bitter, sour aspects of life.
What's your favorite D.C. vista?
The view while flying into Reagan National Airport. I always know I’m home when I first see Georgetown from the window.
And your most cherished souvenir from a trip?
Most of the items I bring back are food-related—spices, candies, snacks.
Where do you plan to travel next?
Portland, Oregon. I’ve never been, and I’ve heard great things about its food and beverage scene.