He’s the first-ever winner of the televised cooking competition, Top Chef Just Desserts, and this Saturday, his new pâtisserie opens in Palo Alto, California. Pastry-chef Yigit Pura talks to T+L about passion, pastries, and the importance of pursuing your dreams.
Q: What have you been doing since your 2010 Top Chef-win?
A: Two years ago, we opened up Tout Sweet Pâtisserie in Union Square. San Franciscans are hard-core foodies. They like good food, and they’re really critical about it—which is awesome, but it really keeps me on my toes. We get a lot of tourists too, of course.
Q: And you’re expanding?
A: Yes. We’re in the process of opening our second and third stores. It’s a lot of work. We have our online store, and a new cookbook, Sweet Alchemy, that came out in August. I’ve been working on that for about three, four years. I have to say: I like being on television, because I like being part of a larger, national, conversation, but at the core of it, baking and cooking and being a chef is my passion. And that’s where I am now.
Q: Tell us about your background.
A: I moved here, to the U.S., when I was twelve years old. My father was a hard-working Turkish man. That’s where I get my work ethic. My mother’s side, they’re in Ankara, is huge. My grandfather was actually a restaurateur. Yet ironically, my mother was so adamantly against my being in the kitchen as a boy.
Q: So you’ve been able to do all this, despite the early protests of your family?
A: Yes. A good thing that came out of the Top Chef win, is that now I do a lot of public speaking. I’ve found that you really have to encourage people to follow their dreams. And I know that sounds pushy, but there’s a really great saying: if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. And it’s so true.
I work 18-20 hours a day, and I literally won’t take a day off for months at a time. Every now and then I’ll stop and say: "You know, I think I should take a day off." But I’ve never once in my life said: "I hate what I do. I wish I could do something else," because I’m living my passion. And that’s huge.
Q: It is. And has your mom come around now, seeing how fulfilled you are?
A: My mom absolutely has come around. Now she thinks all this is her creation, which is kind of funny.
Tout Sweet opens for business in Palo Alto’s Town and Country Village on December 20, 2014. Those in San Francisco can find the original Tout Sweet Pâtisserie on the third floor of Macy’s, overlooking Union Square. Visit Pura online at: www.toutsweetsf.com
Hilal Isler is a contributor to travelandleisure.com.