Meet the Chef Who Makes Dessert for 700 People Every Sunday Morning at New York City’s Historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
Somehow, though, the spotlight has yet to shine on the multitudes of specialty desserts created by chef Charlie Romano.
Chef Romano started his career at the Payard Patisserie and Bistro working under Françoise Payard, honing his skills in the vast array of French desserts and boulangerie. In the years after, he worked at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Central Park and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Columbus Circle as part of both hotels’ opening team. He joined the Waldorf team in 2004 and has spent the past eleven years serving heads of state, American presidents, royalty, and major decision makers from across the globe.
Here’s how he does it:
The Daily Meal: How is it possible that with all of the delicious food offerings, people have room for dessert?
Chef Charlie Romano: I always tell our guests to leave room for dessert.
That must be why you position the chocolate fountain and the dessert bar at the entrance. How much dessert are we talking here, by the numbers?
We offer an assortment of 17 to 20 different desserts, totaling 400 to 700 portions. We offer a combination of larger show cakes along with smaller, individual-sized dessert presentations so our guests can easily pick up and enjoy the dish that their sweet tooth desires.
Are you allowed to play favorites?
My favorites are tiramisú, our éclairs, Linzer bars, and of course our red velvet cake. Guests also love our made-to-order rooftop honey ice cream baked Alaska pops made with honey from our very own 20th floor beehives. I always tell our guests to leave room for dessert.
Do people typically expect such a lavish dessert layout at brunch?
People should expect the hotel to offer such dessert decadence. We host guests from all around the world and every corner of our nation. Waldorf clientele represent the most seasoned travelers with very discerning tastes.
What are some of the most enthusiastic reactions you've gotten from brunch-goers?
I love seeing guests’ eyes light up. You can tell they treat Sunday brunch as a special occasion. They fill their plates to the brim and hold them close to their bodies — so heavy that they have to handle it with care. When people first arrive, you can see on their face that they’re thinking, “Where do I begin?”
Do the desserts change seasonally?
Generally we use more spiced items in the fall and winter and fruiter options in the spring and summer. My favorite culinary season is fall because of the spices and fall fruits we use. The aroma that fills the air during fall in the pastry shop makes it all worthwhile as a pastry chef – we’ll make apple tarts using New York State apples, pumpkin spiced bread with white chocolate nutmeg mousse, toasted maple meringue, and orange-spiced red wine poached pears with vanilla bean panna cotta. Our pumpkin pies are made from fresh cheese pumpkins, and every year we get a whole pallet (800 pounds) from a local farmer. I’m excited just thinking about it!