Acclaimed chocolatier and cookbook author Valerie Gordon will make the Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival that much sweeter. Gordon’s masterful desserts span across Southern California, from her flagship, Valerie’s Confections, to Grand Central Market and American Tea Room. She will show her range by preparing the salad course for the festival’s James Beard luncheon on Friday, April 8, then a signature dessert for the grand tastings on April 9 – 10.
Gordon shares her ties to Palm Desert, as well as her approach to recipe selection.
What got you involved with the Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival?
“I love the area, I love the architecture. The arts community is interesting and the food community is amazing. I love the mix of honoring the history of the community as well as integrating the new…There’s something that feels like you’re transported when you go there.”
“I’m very excited to see what the other chefs are going to do. I’m a huge fan of Cat Cora and Suzanne [Tracht]. Ricardo Zarate is amazing. His food is so inventive and so cool. So happy to find out that Aarti [Sequeira] is coming. I’ve looked up to all these people and am honored to cook with them.”
What restaurants and wineries are you most excited to see at the festival?
“I’m into the old school places like Kaiser Grill, and the new stuff too, like Mr. Parker’s. It’s what’s giving the desert so much character and unique quality. The wineries have super fun stuff coming in. Paso Robles and the Oregon wineries…I love this mix.”
“I really love the sense of camaraderie. It’s so much fun to just meet everybody and taste what they’re doing. I love sharing different techniques, how I approach food with different audiences. There’s so much to see and so much to learn, and I’m flattered to be a part of it.”
What can we expect this year that we didn’t see last year?
“I think a lot of the chefs are really committed to delivering an exceptional experience…they feel like they have to deliver. I see more and more creativity and really amazing pairings of food and bold deliciousness.”
What inspired your recipes for the festival?
“I always want to do something that’s delicious but also approachable. I want it to be something that people can be inspired by, but will also be able to go home and replicate.
My panna cotta is a restaurant quality dessert that gives attendees the freedom to say ‘yes this is something I can do.’”
“For the James Beard [luncheon], it’s really about the season, having something delicious, textured and pretty to look at. Spring is all about pink and green, and this spring salad embodies exactly that.”
As a ‘Modern Master of the Modern Palate,’ how do you define the modern palate today?
“Its indefinable. Boundaries that once existed no longer exist within food and the way it’s presented. Everything is mixed and now it’s about combining cultures.”