Pastry chef Jean François Houdré has been delighting and amazing guests at tony Newport Beach, California's Sutton Place Hotel for the past 10 years. The hotel is perhaps one of Newport Beach's best kept secrets, offering guests unparelled levels of service, not to mention some of the best cuisine in Orange County, and a wonderful, intimate jazz music venue on the weekends.
Jean François' signature desserts, works of art for the eyes as much as the tastebuds, are highpoints in a meal filled with peaks. The hotel's Accents Restaurant frequently plays host to locals as well as tourists, a sure testimony to its year round quality. But Houdré, and in fact, the Sutton Place Hotel in general, really shines during holidays.
The Sutton Place regularly plans special holiday promotions and events, and Houdré is usually right in the middle of them. Like the time he built a Christmas Gingerbread scene so spectacular, so massive, it wouldn't fit through the kitchen doors!
Each holiday season,the Paris trained chef produces over 1000 Yule log cakes for hotel guests and banquet attendees. But while the recipes are traditional, Jean François takes the concept of the Yule log to new heights, adorning it with sugar ribbons, chocolate leaves and trees, marzipan holly and meringue mushrooms. Jean François credits his father, a Bordeaux pastry chef and amatuer sculptor, as his inspiration.
If you happen to be in the area of Newport Beach at holiday time, stop by the Sutton Place Hotel for their holiday celebrations. The hotel is especially cheery because of the hundreds of Teddy Bears decorating the halls. The bears are donated by corporate clients to be given to a local children's charity. Call the Sutton Place at 949-476-2001 for more information or reservations.
Otherwise, check out this feature, as chef Houdré graciously shares with us his secrets of making a Yule Log Cake. Don't worry if you can't exactly duplicate this work of art at home, I can't either. The cake alone, without all the extra adornments is still a spectacular finish to any holiday meal.