Major developments on the pastry front: Del Posto’s head pastry chef, Nicole Kaplan, who soared to fame as the chef at Eleven Madison Park (and, incidentally, as the creator of the Shake Shack’s custard), has left the restaurant. We had heard that it was to head the dessert program at the St. Regis Hotel or, possibly, one of its restaurants, but the hotel denies this. (We’re still trying to reach Kaplan.) Del Posto GM Alfredo Ruiz confirms that Kaplan has been gone since January 1, but that her full staff is still in place and doing her menu as before. Co-owner Joe Bastianich says, “The split was amicable, and we wish Nicole nothing but the best in everything she does.” Bastianich added that the restaurant is looking at a couple of people and that, when the hire does happen, it will be “big news.”
Let’s put on our thinking caps: Who are the big-name pastry chefs available out there? In New York, you can rule out the avant-gardists: There’s no way we can see the likes of Tailor’s Sam Mason or WD-50’s Alex Stupak in the very classical and conservative confines of Del Posto. Michael Laiskonis is deeply entrenched at Le Bernardin, and, among top Italian restaurants, A Voce’s Josh Gripper and Alto’s Deb Snyder were just appointed. Johnny Iuzzini is versatile enough to work anywhere, but he has a virtual fiefdom at Jean Georges, and we don’t see him going anywhere.
But, given Del Posto’s culinary atmosphere and the fact that Kaplan was there last, we wonder if maybe Craft’s Karen DeMasco isn’t ready to make a move: Her inventive but essentially traditional style seems in keeping with Kaplan’s. And so does that of Claudia Fleming, her predecessor, who has been cooking out at Long Island’s North Fork Table and Inn and may miss the lights of the big city. And, of course, the Batali/Bastianich empire has a great pastry chef already in the house in Gina DePalma at Babbo, but would a move like that be “big news”? We’re just practicing idle speculation here — but we’ll dutifully pass along the real “big news” as soon as everyone’s good and ready.
Update: Multiple sources have informed us that Kaplan’s new job will be at The Plaza, not the St. Regis. We’re waiting on official confirmation from the hotel.