I Spent My Birthday with Top Chef Just Desserts Winner, Yigit Pura

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by Amy Flanigan on December 19, 2010 · 17 comments

You all know Yigit Pura, right? Executive Pastry Chef at San Francisco’s Taste Catering and Event Planning, and champion of Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts.

Well, I spent my birthday with him.

Okay…sort of.

I got to meet Yigit. And ask him questions. And get a hug. And a picture. See…

And watch him bake. And talk about flour, and butter, and cream.

And it happened to be my birthday, as well. So I consider that spending my birthday with him. At least for an hour.

A professed sugar junkie, he admits that his kitchen is used for baking, not a whole lot of cooking. Citrus plays a big roll in his desserts, as does honey. He joked about being a beekeeper if he couldn’t be a pastry chef.

Yigit managed to field questions from a 150+ standing-room-only crowd, lining the parameter, trying to get a closer look. I think he handled it in great stride.

Some take-aways:
• Don’t be intimidated by Farmer’s Markets. Touch and smell all the odd looking, unfamiliar fruit and experiment with them.
• Fold together cake batter and avoid using a mixer, lending to a lighter, fluffier product.
• Make your own pectin by creating a jelly bag (combine citrus skin and membrane inside a pillow case, sealing the top, then boil in water with the fruit for 20 minutes. Cover and allow to cool. Squeeze out the liquid.)

Yigit is everything you’d expect. Warm, charming, humble, personable, with a smile that lights up his whole face and the room around him. And boy, can he keep a secret. From the time he won Top Chef Just Desserts until the time it aired and the public found out, 7 1/2 months had passed. He had to keep that news to himself for 7 1/2 months!

So here I am, lover of pie (as you all know), in the presence of an acclaimed pastry chef. I couldn’t let him escape without answering my standard question: “If you had a slice of cake and a slice of pie in front of you, and you could only choose one, which would it be?” He paused and answered….wait for it…

Cake. DOH.

It’s okay, Yigit. I still love you.

Thank you to Malika at Be Everywhere Media for inviting me, Macy’s Culinary Council for hosting another great event, Charles from Charles Zukow Associates for setting up my meeting, and thank you Yigit for being wonderful.

And thank you, Mom! For treating me to lunch beforehand, being my date, and sharing my birthday with me. I love you.


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Maris (In Good Taste) December 25, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Sounds like the perfect birthday. Happy belated!


Amy December 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Erin and Lauren – Thanks! It really was such a good time. Still smiling about it…

Mom – I’ll have to see what the Davis Farmer’s Market has next time we go. I don’t think I’ve ever spotted those fruits he used. But then again, I wasn’t looking. You were the best date! SO glad you joined me.

Anne – If I was gay, I would stalk him. He was truly kind, funny, and adorable.


Anne December 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Happy Birthday! There was definitely some sort of spark flying between you and Yigit. I could see it. Probably a baking spark, but one nonetheless.


Mom December 20, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Yigit was as charming as Amy said. I may even try my hand at his Four Citrus Marmalade. Of course, that calls for another trip into San Francisco to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building to buy Buddha Hand Fingers and Cara Cara oranges. No, these aren’t staples in my kitchen! This was a great way to partially celebrate Amy’s birthday and a treat being included in the VIP section. I’ll tag along any time, Amy.


Lauren at KeepItSweet December 20, 2010 at 9:14 am

OMG I can’t even tell you how jealous i am, love him!


Erin December 20, 2010 at 7:25 am

What a perfect birthday event! :) Lucky you! Looks like you had an excellent time.


Amy December 20, 2010 at 6:49 am

Carissa – Ha! So, you’re a detail person. I am too. I do so love German Chocolate cake, so I understand. But pie would still win that fight in my house, no matter what kind.

Cathy – And here I thought we were friends ;-) Well, like politics and religion, I never push my pie beliefs on anyone else. (Okay, that’s a lie.) Thanks for the birthday wishes! Wish I could have shared a piece of cake with you.

Paul – I remember thinking that the show aired too late at night and how Yigit always made us want chocolate before bed.


Paul December 20, 2010 at 5:59 am

On one episode, I started eating the remote. He’s that good.


Cathy December 20, 2010 at 5:35 am

I have never seen Top Chef, BUT I would pick cake as well. A belated happy birthday to you! I’m sorry I missed it, and so glad you had such a fabulous celebration.


Carissa @ Fit To Indulge December 19, 2010 at 5:17 pm

What a fun way to spend your birthday! Mr. Top Pastry Chef is quite adorable. :) And I don’t think I could choose if it were cake vs pie. I would be the complicated one to ask what kind of cake and what kind of pie. Apple pie trumps yellow cake, but German chocolate trumps all!


Amy December 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Stephanie – Such an awesome time! Even for me, there’s a bit of travel involved. Takes about 1 1/2 -2 hours into SF from where I am. Nonetheless, totally totally worth it.

Joanne – He made Meyer Lemon cake with homemade marmalade and Crème fraiche. And although it wasn’t intended to be my birthday cake, I pretended. Made it that much sweeter.

Cheryl – Being me for a day is so incredibly less glamorous than you think!

Amy – Thank you so much! A nice way to celebrate my birth, right? Switzerland…lol. Good one. Yigit’s first response was “both” but I made him choose.

Lisa – We did too. Didn’t everyone want him to win from the very beginning? He was so adorable. I was also relieved that his personality in real-life was just as wonderful, if not better, than what came through the television. Love when that happens.


Lisa December 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I love Yigit! We watched the entire season from the beginning and wanted him to win from the start. How fun that you got to hang out and glad to hear he’s so friendly.


Amy @ Serve At Once December 19, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Happy Birthday, Amy! It sounds like it was a pretty good one. I’m a little jealous, but so excited you got to share some time with Yigit.

I still haven’t come up with my cake vs. pie preference. I know that makes me an indecisive dweeb…but still. I guess I’ll be Switzerland and get the best of both worlds!


Cheryl December 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Oh my god, can I be you for a day? How awesome!


Joanne December 19, 2010 at 11:31 am

Oh my god Amy! I was SO excited for you when i read your email yesterday. It was right after my long run and I was EXHAUSTED which was why I didn’t reply. but I thought about you all day. Thinking about whether or not you were standing next to the man himself. Eating his delicious cake. So glad to hear you had such a great day!


Stephanie @ Per l'Amore del Ciob December 19, 2010 at 11:16 am

I am so frickin jealous that you get to meet all these great chefs. I need to live in a more high-profile state. But dude, what a GREAT way to spend your BIRTHDAY! Looks (and sounds) like you had an awesome time!


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