A lot has changed at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach since its opening in 1954. The hotel has undergone renovations and upgrades, but some things remain constant: the resort has always been the most lavish playground on Miami's famed stretch of beach and the resort has always had a coffee and patisserie shop for its guests.
Chez Bon Bon, which opened about a month ago in the former Solo space, continues this tradition of offering a sweet treat and a caffeinated pick-me-up to hotel guests and locals alike.
The newly renovated space is brighter and more open than before, with guests able to see the entire layout of savory sandwiches, decadent pastries, and a wheel of gelato (seriously!) from the lobby, tempting all as they walk by to the beach or a meeting.
What passersby don't see, however, is the massive manpower it takes to produce these colorful cakes and confections. Hidden under the lobby cafe lies a vast space filled with skilled and talented bakers and chocolatiers who work at Miami's own version of Wonkaville.
Executive pastry chef Jordi Panisello opened the doors to this wondrous workshop, which is open 24 hours a day, to bake all the massive resort's breads, cakes, and pastries. The Fontainebleau also crafts its chocolates, gelatos, and candies in-house.
In charge of chocolates, nougats, and caramels, chocolatier Chris O'Neil works in the sweetest part of the entire resort. Executive chef Panisello explains that the greatest challenge lies in finding the perfect balance between chocolate and the fruit, liquor, or nut that its paired with. "You want the flavors to work with each other, and never to overpower the other."
Cake artist Angela Louise Encio is charged with decorating all of the resort's cakes from the sublime to the extravagant. Guests celebrating a special occasion at the hotel or hosting a convention make an appointment with the talented cake master for custom creations. When asked how many cakes she makes in a day, Encio stops her intricate work for a mere nanosecond to think. "I made 32 cakes yesterday," she concludes. When asked what was the most memorable cake she worked on, Encio doesn't hesitate. "It was a very large cake, maybe nine feet tall. It was so big, it couldn't get through the door. Each tier was three feet tall." When asked who commissioned the giant dessert, Encio simply smiles. A cake artist never bakes and tells.
Jose Martinez's job may seem "'chill", but it's actually pretty hectic. The gelato maven creates about 28 different flavors a day, which equates to about 160 gallons of the frozen concoction per week.
Baker Gloria Colon hand rolls and forms about 1,000 croissants each week. As Panisello says, "you can have a machine make rolled croissants, but you can't make these. Each one is hand rolled. When they come out of the oven, each one is unique. If we had a machine, they would never be this good."
Panisello says that the bakery never closes. "We have people come in and bake for breakfast, but restaurants like Scarpetta don't open until dinner service. You simply can't bake the bread until the afternoon."
After admiring so many different cakes, cookies, and pastries, it was time to ask the head pastry chef what kind of sweet tooth he had. "I eat so much cake on the job, I almost don't crave it at home. But when I do, I like warm desserts. Chocolate souffles and beignets. My grandmother made the best hot chocolate and beignets. That's my favorite."
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Chez Bon Bon is located on the lobby level of the hotel's Chateau wing and is open Sunday - Thursday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. The resort offers 30 minute complimentary parking at the Chateau valet stand for Chez Bon Bon customers -- plenty of time to pick up a cake for your dinner party and enjoy a cup of gelato while you're at it.