Experimenting With Pastry Chef Vincent Pantoliano of Meat Market

It's 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon and Vincent Pantoliano, executive pastry Chef at Meat Market, is in the kitchen experimenting with different ingredients and techniques. He wants to get the right textures and flavors. He often comes in early so there's extra time to "play" in the kitchen.

This adventurous spirit won him the first prize in the StarChefs Vitamix challenge. His goat cheese cheesecake wowed judges that including Marcus Samuelsson and Harold Deiterle. Comparable to a Top Chef Quickfire challenge. "It was stressful to be cooking and representing not only myself but also Meat Market," he says.

This Long Island native has a Cordon Bleu culinary degree. He has spent years working as a sous chef across the country, but it wasn't until he got to Meat Market that he found his true passion. "I love pastry because it allows me to utilize my creativity more -- people accept whimsical things when it comes to dessert." When asked for his favorite ingredient, he quickly replies, "Sugar -- it's fascinating what you can do with it".

He loves to experiment with foams, powders and other unique components.. "It's like a conversation piece before you walk out the door," he says, but adds that he puts just as much work into the more conventional pistachio creme brulee and warm chocolate temptation cake.

Then he serves us chocolate tuile, cocoa nib and hazelnut snow drizzled over a chocolate terrine with a chocolate hazelnut gelato. After devouring the entire dish we walk out feeling a bit like an Oompa-Loompa; humming a tune with a smile on our faces.

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Christina Staalstrom