CHEF BLAKE ABENE
“Right after Hurricane Katrina, I was sitting around with some coworkers at the insurance agency where I worked, and I asked my office manager, ‘If you could do anything besides insurance, what would it be?’ and she said, ‘I’d start a bakery.’ And I thought, ‘Wait, that’s actually an option? That’s what I’m going to do,’” says Blake Abene of Square Root of his decision to pursue a career as a pastry chef.
In the 10 years since the pivotal conversation, Blake went on to receive a degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Baking and Pastry Arts and has subsequently worked in some of the country’s top bakeries, learning from the masters.
Now at 2011 Chef to Watch Phillip Lopez’s Square Root in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District, Blake is turning out beautiful, cutting-edge desserts that celebrate local flavors and are assembled with superior skill and precision.
When creating a new pastry, Blake sticks to a simple method. “I start with what’s in season. Then I begin building flavor profiles in my head. I always try to have something familiar and something a little out of the ordinary to make it interesting. If a dessert’s just one note, I lose interest after a bite or two.”
Combining soft with crunchy, sweet with sour, and occasionally adding a touch of bitterness to keep things lively, Blake builds a dessert selection that’s perfectly in tune with Square Root’s constantly evolving menu.
His pastry philosophy? “Make tasty food. You can have all the techniques and bells and whistles in the world, but if it doesn’t taste good, you’ve got nothing.”
When making Blake’s Grilled Corn Bavarois, he recommends preparing the recipe in stages, depending on how long each keeps. On plating, he offers this advice: “For this dessert I wanted it to be a very set structure in the middle; the soil is confined as a circle, and then a little bit more randomness with the other stuff on the plate.”