When I was seven years old, my father, a French professor in Tennessee, packed up our entire family to go live in Paris for a year. Once a week (which was all we could afford on his modest teacher’s salary), my brothers and I were allowed to select a single pastry from the neighborhood patisserie. I became obsessed. I spent many hours doing detailed drawings of the window display, pastry by pastry, debating about which to choose.
Imagine my surprise to find the heart of France in Atlanta, at the Loews Atlanta Hotel. I was there for a special dinner, with my now-retired father as my guest, celebrating the fact that Loews’ executive chef Olivier Gaupin had just been inducted into the prestigious Maitres Cuisiniers de France (Master Chefs of France), a worldwide organization dedicated to preserving and proliferating the French culinary arts.
The evening’s seven-course meal was a brilliant combination of classical French techniques and regional ingredients prepared by Chef Gaupin and his team, with the final course of four petite French pastries helmed by Chef John Bell. Bell hails not from France but from LaGrange, Georgia, about an hour outside of Atlanta. His skills amazed me, especially when I learned that before he became a pastry chef, he had successful careers as both a teacher and an electrician. According to Gaupin, there is basically nothing Bell cannot do.
I asked Chef Bell to share a recipe with us that is “home-cook friendly,” and he was happy to oblige. Bon appétit!
(Note: I’ve done my best to convert the below measurements from weight to volume, but if you’re serious about baking, a good kitchen scale is a must).
Cranberry Pear Tart
From Pasty Chef John Bell of Loews Atlanta