Ones to Watch 2013 // Bob Zugmaier

Why Watch Him: He switched from hot line to pastry. Now he’s on fire.

Age: 30

They say you can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Who better to help us understand the sweet job that Bob Zugmaier has done since taking over as pastry chef at Sidney Street Cafe in September 2011 than someone who’s been there before? Enter translator Christy Augustin, former pastry chef at Sidney Street and current owner of Pint Size Bakery.

Augustin: Why did you make that leap into pastry?
Zugmaier: I wanted to have a creative outlet. I know that you pretty much got to do your own thing as long as [chef-owner] Kevin [Nashan] approved it. That was a big perk for me. I wanted to do my own thing.

What about pastry allows you to be more creative?
It’s just a whole different set of rules. Hot cooking is kind of flying by the seat of your pants. This, it’s pretty obvious when something was done wrong.

There are a lot of rules in pastry. You can break them as long as you know how.
Once you learn what can be changed and what can’t be and how much of which … it’s just, there’s so many different rules.

I think that’s something Kevin is doing a lot as well, with sous vide being used so much in the kitchen. Or the CVap.
CVap is like an oven that cooks as low as 90 degrees for an infinite amount of time. It introduces moisture or dry heat, whatever you want to do. It’s like sous vide on steroids. … I stay away from it. It’s too expensive. I don’t want to break it.

And using the little thing that bearnaise is made in now?
The Thermomix. That thing is amazing. I definitely use that.

So you’re incorporating savory flavors and some savory techniques by using tools that a lot of pastry chefs don’t have access to.
I know those techniques more than I do classic French pastry techniques, so that was an easy bridge for me.

When I see the Thermomix and CVap, I don’t know what to do with them.
I’m working on one right now that’s like the texture of a baked custard but it’s cream, there’s no eggs and it uses pectin. The Snickers Bar is the most popular dessert. It’s chocolate ganache put through a whipped cream charger so it’s foamy. And it’s frozen so it looks like cake. Then it has peanuts, dulce de leche, chocolate mousse – there’s like 10 components.

What do you consider the key elements to a great dessert?
Texture. It’s hard to find something different for every dessert that is crispy without doing the same thing over and over. There’s an overabundance of creamy, so I look for something new that’s crispy and sometimes savory or salty.

What other elements do you like to incorporate? Is there some go-to flavor?
Just something different. The apple dessert I have right now has foie gras ice cream on it. You see foie gras savory preparation with apples all over it. Why can’t it be a dessert?

How did it come about that you got to represent Sidney Street at the James Beard dinner?
I have no idea. I lost so much sleep over it. I’m like, do I really want to embarrass myself in front of some of the best chefs in the country? Everything worked out. We worked at that dessert for a good month and a half.

Sidney Street Cafe, 2000 Sidney St., St. Louis, 314.771.5777,