San Luis Resort chef approaches pastries with creativity, innovation
To bake or not to bake. That was the question Miguel Michel pondered as he progressed through his culinary career.
Seeing as Michel is now the pastry chef at Galveston’s renowned San Luis Hotel Resort Spa & Conference Center, he obviously has made his choice.
“Pastries are my true passion,” said the Los Angeles native who has lived on the island for five years. “They take focus, an extreme attention to detail and provide me with a creative outlet in the kitchen.
“The ornate presentation of pastries is in a league of its own, and there’s nothing better than creating a perfect, edible piece of art,” Michel said.
Still, Michel wrestles with the personal challenge of trying to balance baking with culinary, or non-dessert cooking, something he calls a struggle because, “there are only so many hours in a day.”
In those hours, Michel focuses on creating meal endings that are rustic, clean and, most importantly, flavorful. Chocolate and spices are his “must-have” ingredients for show-stopping pastries. On the savory side, the chef swears by red pepper, “a versatile spice that can easily add a kick to any dish,” and rosemary, “simply because of the rich flavor it brings to savory breads.”
Michel, who rebuilds trucks in his spare time, prefers the joy of cooking for himself over having someone cook for him. Clearly, he is a man in love with food and enamored of those who stand out in the culinary milieu. He lists chefs from the Culinary Institute of Chicago among his influences and claims as his proudest career moment his participation in the World Pastry Forum, a series of classes and seminars taught by international luminaries of the pastry industry. And he would have been honored to cook for renowned Hall of Fame Culinary Chef Paul Bocuse, he said.
Michel has been cooking for 35 years, recently at hotels in New Orleans before moving to Galveston. In that time, the greatest challenge he has faced is staying fresh and relevant.
“The culinary scene is constantly reinventing itself,” he said. “Chefs are creative and innovative by nature, but pioneering new approaches can often be challenging.”
It’s part of the advice he would give up-and-coming chefs,
“I would tell aspiring chefs to always work hard and master all aspects of the job role before continuing onto the next level,” he said. “Truly hone your craft and then continue to climb toward your dream, understanding that there are always ways to get better and learn new things along the way.”
Chef Miguel Michel’s Decadent Tiramisu
1½ cups egg yolks
2 cups sugar
½ cup Tia Maria liqueur
½ cup sweet Marsala wine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 pounds mascarpone
About 20 lady fingers
1 cup espresso
In a small saucepan, bring sugar, Tia Maria and Marsala together for 5 minutes or until it makes strings off the spoon when pulled (softball stage).
Meanwhile, put egg yolks and vanilla into mixer and whisk on high until almost doubled in size. Once sugar is ready, slowly pour into egg yolks while still mixing on high.
Fully incorporate sugar mixture into eggs and, once it starts to cool, add in mascarpone slowly.
Layer filling with lady fingers and espresso, preferably in a glass serving bowl and cover with whipped cream.