Born in Miami to Cuban parents, Chef Andrea Sans Araiza left the city years ago to study pastry at the French Culinary Institute. The Fates must've been pacified, for right out of school she got a job working for Bobby Flay in both of his New York restaurants. Then she landed in Vegas as part of the opening team for his Mesa in Caesar's Palace.
She eventually left Flay to work for Chef Bradley Ogden, a pioneer in the farm-fresh and organic movements, learning about the importance of locally sourced ingredients and experimenting with their use in her desserts. According to Araiza, her flair with flan flavors, like pumpkin and buttermilk, attracted a group of followers, not unlike those folks who flock for her take on Michael Mina's signature molten chocolate cake at Bourbon Steak
. She has been at the Aventura restaurant just over a year.
Now, due to deliver her first child any day, Araiza discusses the challenges of being a pregnant pastry chef.
New Times: Are the rumors true? You aren't eating sweets? How does a pastry chef get by doing that?
Andrea Sans Araiza: In the very beginning I didn't. I couldn't look at them. Nothing remotely sweet. It was really hard trying to develop desserts and do new things. I had to rely on my staff, who were great, but I would've rather have been the one to figure out if I liked it or not. It was the first half of my pregnancy. Now I'm back to I-could-eat-M&Ms-all-day.
But my husband is so used to me always wanting... I'm an Oreo person, so I'll have a few every now and then and then he thinks it's an excuse for him to have 'em, too. He was really upset I wasn't eating any of it. He was so bummed I wouldn't order dessert because he won't order it, but if I order it, he'll eat it. He was like, 'I'm over this!' and he started eating sweets again. He gained more than I did, I think! He had more cravings than I do. He's taking advantage of the situation.
So what was the hardest part about being a pregnant pastry chef?
The biggest, in the beginning, was not being able to eat anything raw. Like raw eggs, particularly. Especially when making new stuff like batters and ice cream bases. In the beginning you're kinda paranoid because it's your first pregnancy. I'm definitely more lax now. Now I'm over it.
No other challenges? I mean, you're carrying around an entire human...
It's hard to maneuver. I get really tired. Lifting stuff--I can't do it. Half the time the guys in the kitchen are like, 'Let me help you.' Other times they just move out of the way. Trying to rely on other people is hard for me because I'm not used to that. But my team is great.
What did you crave if ice cream was off the list?
Cheese and Dijon mustard. I would dip cheese in bleu cheese dressing. That's how disgusting it was.
How far along are you?
I'm due February 18. I feel ginormous.
But you're obviously still working.
I'm in Valentine's prep mode. I want to get things in order in case I'm not here. We're doing a frozen strawberry souflee with warm strawberry sauce and a chocolate croissant bread pudding. [Editor's note: We've got the bread pudding recipe for you Monday. You're welcome.]
Special menu then?
Everyone gets dessert that night. It's a prix fixe menu: three courses for $109. [Us again. The dinner comprises duck fat fries and a choice starter of the ahi tuna tartare, a black olive Caesar salad, a San Francisco-style cioppino or American caviar parfait. The main entree selections are an American Kobe duo, grilled local swordfish or a roasted chicken breast with truffled mac and cheese, and beignets are also on the dessert option list, just in case you were wondering.]
If I can get them set up for that night, I'll feel accomplished. I'll feel like I can leave and we'll all not freak out.
Let's get back to the baby talk. Is this your first child?
This is my first one.
Boy or girl?
It's a boy. I'm done. I'm ready for him to come out.
Can I ask how much weight you gained?
Twenty-four pounds. But I still wear my regular pants, I just wear 'em below my belly. And I still wear my chef coat, but I can only button two buttons.
I've had a great go of it. I'm gonna miss him being inside. I feel like you always have a buddy with you.
I read last night that they cry on the inside.
Inside the womb?
Yeah. That made me cry thinking of him and that I can't do anything about it.
I guess I would, too, if I knew there was a slab of cake just out of my reach.
Tomorrow we'll learn what chef Andrea Sans Araiza feels are the latest dessert trends, which slimy sweet really grosses her out, and what her baby boy's first treat may be.