By Tanya Henry
Speaking with Jerry Navas, the newly hired 23-year-old pastry chef at Taste Kitchen & Table in Fairfax, the phrase, “The world is his oyster,” comes to mind. After a trip to Europe where he fell in love with all things French pastry, Navas changed course from savory cooking to sweet, and now hopes to introduce Marinites to some of his Parisian favorites—just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Taste owners Rochelle Edwards and Lorenzo Jones brought Navas on board in November and already, the menu reflects the young chef’s attention to more advanced technique and classic offerings. But not to worry—favorites aren’t going away, and those pretty, tasteless French confections that we want to love (but don’t) are not what’s on the new menu at Taste. Instead, a flakey and more dense croissant is offered up, along with canelés—exquisite little caramelized bombs of goodness with a chewy exterior and a soft custard filling.
For the upcoming holiday, lovely pink, heart-shaped macarons flavored with pomegranate and rose enrobe luscious raspberries for a crunchy treat of fruity and not-too-sweet decadence. Chocolate-dipped strawberries, a delectable caramel confection and apple turnovers will also be gracing the shelves the week of February 14.
Navas, who trained at City College of San Francisco and cut his teeth at Chantal Guillon (a San Francisco retail store known for their macarons), is exuberant about his craft. “As soon as I touched pastry, I knew that is what I wanted to do,” gushes the animated chef, who cites fashion design, mixology and architecture as interests. “I’m always looking for new challenges.” Along with learning the ropes at Taste, he is also experimenting with different flours and developing what he hopes will be a perfect gluten-free croissant.
Clearly, Taste has plenty of changes afoot. An expanded wholesale operation is slated for the café, and if all goes to plan, baguettes and various savory breads will also be available, along with wedding cakes and additional French-focused offerings that include clafoutis, quiche Lorraine and even tarte tatin.
The barely 1 ½-year-old café has transitioned well from its previous incarnation as Fat Angel Bakery and has become a popular hangout for locals. Now with Navas at the ovens, I expect that all of the offerings will become more refined and focused. But don’t take my word for it—taste for yourself, or pick up something sweet for someone you love.
Taste Kitchen & Table, 71 Broadway Blvd., Fairfax; 415/455-9040; tastekitchenandtable.com.