James Beard Foundation's Taste America national tour kicks off in Miami Friday, and with it come big names like internationally renowned culinary pioneer Norman Van Aken, favorite TV personality Ted Allen, and West Coast pastry chef Yigit Pura of Top Chef Just Desserts fame.
Raised in Turkey and now residing in San Francisco, Pura won the first season of Just Desserts in 2010. After his win, the young and beautiful pastry chef returned to the Golden City with Taste Catering and Event Planning and then opened his own bakery, Tout Sweet Patisserie, one year ago. San Francisco's sweetheart, Pura is openly gay and considered to be an activist in the LGBT community.
After celebrating the one-year anniversary of Tout Sweet last week, the San Francisco chef took some time to tell Short Order about his first trip to Miami, what sweets he'll be dishing out at Taste America, and the cookbook he'll be releasing this spring.
New Times: How has winning Top Chef Just Desserts helped you act as an LGBT activist?
Yigit Pura: I've always been outspoken since I was a kid, and to this day, even though I'm practicing Buddhism, any sort of injustice still rubs me the wrong way. It's an honor to have a voice in the larger LGBT dialogue, especially with all the progress that has taken this year alone. And it's a great responsibility as well. I think we have to evolve as people and citizens in recognizing all of our equalities and similarities. Cooking, especially baking, is a great way to bring people together and have them just "be." Who doesn't love sugar, after all?
Have you ever been to Miami before? How do you feel about coming to visit this month?
I have never been. Crazy, yes. I can't wait. I love the warm weather and warm people, so perhaps I'll leave with plans on opening Tout Sweet in Miami in the coming years.
What are you most looking forward to about the event?
Meeting all of the fellow chefs, but mostly meeting all the people who will be coming to support the James Beard Foundation. I've never cooked in Miami, so I'm excited to have the taste of a new city.
Which of the chefs are you excited to work with?
All of them! Most events involving a big group of people is usually exciting, but I distinctly get the feeling this is going to be an extra dynamic group of people.
What do you plan on doing for dessert for James Beard Foundation Taste America?
I really wanted to work with local passion fruit, so I wanted to create a really vibrant and sexy bold dessert. I've created a dessert called "Blonde Ambition" to capture Madonna's energy at her best. Strong, sexy, and pushing the boundaries.
Food-wise, what does San Francisco have that Miami should emulate?
Each city is like it's own person. For example, New York City and San Francisco think about food very differently, and they are both great in their own way. I'm not sure it's my place to say anyone should emulate San Francisco, but one thing we are so very proud of is passionately supporting local farming, from produce, fruits, dairy, cheese and all things artisanal. I really believe this shows directly in the final dish that is produced. And there is a sort of love that exist between chefs and their favorite farmers.
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What can we expect from your "Sweet Alchemy" cookbook coming out soon? Is there an official release date yet?
It's slated to be released March 2014. It's been a three-year process, but I'm really proud of the outcome. I wanted to encourage not only professional bakers but also home bakers to make really stunning desserts. The first five chapters teach you how to make simple yet really delicious recipes, using the simplest of ingredients. The last chapter then teaches how to combine these really simple recipes to make really elegant desserts - little bit of alchemy and magic.
The Next Generation Cocktail Reception & Culinary Masters' Dinner featuring desserts prepared by Chef Pura begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach. General admission and VIP tickets are still on sale.