Sherry Yard remains as plucky as ever, always optimistic about the possibilities that food brings, whether it’s in tony Beverly Hills, or the more plebeian confines of a movie theater. The three-time James Beard award-winning chef is now the chief operating officer of the restaurant division at iPic Entertainment, which owns 15 movie theaters around the country, including iPic in Westwood and its adjacent The Tuck Room tavern.
As we stepped into The Tuck Room on a weekday afternoon, Yard was adjusting her pink and light green pillows on the restaurant’s patio, telling us that she personally directed the redesign of the space that was formerly the Italian-centric Tanzy.
The loungey restaurant has the look of a debonair gastropub, if such a thing exists. And while the place is connected to iPic, it’s still a standalone neighborhood restaurant worthy of hitting as its own destination. Eater sat down with Yard to discuss the evolution of LA’s pastry scene, how thoughtfulness translates from the kitchen to the plate, and how much longer we’ll have to wait for the long anticipated Helms Bakery project in Culver City.
Kang: Why do you think LA has a great pastry scene?
Yard: The sheer quality of the ingredients. In my raspberry red velvet pavlova, you get a smart, thoughtful dessert with a seasonal ingredient. If you compare our produce to another city’s, our worst stuff is better than their best stuff.
Kang: You’ve been in the scene for many years. What have you seen develop over the decades?
Yard: I’m more of a restaurateur these days, so I’ve been able to gain a great perspective. LA has maintained its layers of pastry chef over the years, starting with Nancy [Silverton] and myself. And now we have a second crop of pastry chefs like Zoe Nathan, Christine Moore, Valerie Gordon, Marguerite Manzke at Republique, even Nicole Rucker and Genevieve Gergis at Bestia. Going on, we have Roxanna Jullapat, Christine Olson at Tavern, Dahlia Narvaez (Osteria Mozza), Shannon Swindle at Craft. What’s great is that you get people who apprentice and learn and eventually go on to open their own bakeries and restaurants.
Kang: Do people in Los Angeles even order a lot of dessert?
Yard: When I was at Spago, 65% of diners would get dessert after dinner, and 40% would get dessert after lunch, which I think was really high. We developed a reputation that you never finished a meal unless you had something sweet. The "ding" at the end of the orchestra.
Kang: What desserts really define your career?
Yard: I think someone said that every chef invents two great recipes before they die. I studied pastry in Austria, so I made a dessert called the salzberger nockerln, a banana and chocolate dessert that resembles the mountains nearby Salzburg, Austria. Also the macarons at Spago. Before I infused flavors like gingerbread in them, no one thought you could add other ingredients. I added molasses, spice, and fresh ginger.
Kang: What kind of dessert impresses you?
Yard: Thoughtful, simple creativity. When I made this raspberry red velvet pavlova at The Tuck Room, I was looking for something shareable and craveable. I’ve always been known for my baked alaskas, because I love meringue. It’s light and has the perfect crunch. In this dessert, I infuse earl grey tea. I’ve never really been a red velvet fan, but I think the raspberry puree works great because it adds integrity to the batter. It also gives the dish a nice tang.
Kang: You’re also a bit of the perfectionist. Tell me about the chocolate souffle at Cut.
Yard: I’ve been making souffles since I worked at the Rainbow Room in New York City. But by 2000, I still didn’t think I had the perfect recipe. That year, we made 600 souffles, and tweaked the recipe for the entire year. We actually had a huge spreadsheet on the ingredients and techniques before we came to the perfect recipe. When we opened Cut, that became our signature dish.
Kang: What’s happening at Helms Bakery in Culver City?
Yard: It’s under construction. We have 15,000 square feet, six different "vignettes" or dining stations. The idea is sort of like a food hall. I’ve been making jam for years and I have 3,000 pounds of jam in reserve right now. Everything will be made in house. It’s a real passion project. We just finished building out the basement. We’ll have a mezzanine. The idea is for us to be a community destination.