Together with her mentor Nancy Silverton, pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez has crafted some of the most legendary desserts in the city of Los Angeles. We got in touch with the 2012 Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee to look back on how she joined the restaurant industry and find out which sweet on the Mozza menu is her favorite.
JBF: As a native of Los Angeles, did any of the food of your childhood inspire what you make now?
DH: I actually didn't grow up with a ton of homemade desserts. Dessert just wasn't something my mother made. But she did made good food, getting complex flavors out of simple ingredients.
JBF: We read that you once fudged your résumé and talked your way into your first professional kitchen, the Conga Room. Can you tell us a little more about that?
DH: That probably was not the smartest thing I've done for my career—after ten minutes on my first day, it was clear that I had no experience! I think the only reason the chef let me stay was because we had a mutual friend, but I worked my butt off every minute after that. While it's not something I would recommend doing, it taught me that everyone deserves one chance.
JBF: What’s your favorite item on the menu at any of the Mozza locations right now?
DH: It would have to be my torta della nonna. I have fond memories of working on it. It's something that's so simple, but all the elements are just right.
JBF: What’s your go-to dessert recipe when you’re entertaining at home?
DH: Chocolate pudding all the way. It's gluten free, I can make it ahead of time, and everyone loves it.
JBF: What’s your favorite cookbook?
DH: There are two that I'm constantly referring to: the first is Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters, which is full of amazing produce knowledge and beautiful images of fruit. The second would be The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming. I have two copies: one sits on my shelf at home, and the second is at work and falling apart. I recommend these books to people all the time.
JBF: What’s your earliest food memory?
DH: When I was young, it was just me and my mom at one point. I remember not having much, but for some reason my mom had put together this basic sugar cookie recipe. I remember sitting on the kitchen counter, next to the rolled out cookie dough, and her hand taking mine and showing me how to use a cookie cutter. I remember the cutter in my hand, the dough, and my mom.