By Danielle Schalk
While sweet treats aren’t always seen as a top priority, dessert and pastry play an important role in creating a well-rounded hotel food-and-beverage strategy.
As Michael Hawryluk, executive chef, W Toronto, explains, when it comes to on-property dining experiences, “Pastry is our last opportunity to leave a good impression with our guests.”
This is especially important for a property whose F&B outlets form its key amenities.
As W Toronto’s senior Marketing manager, Kelly Baumgartner, explains, “We’re a bit of a smaller property, so we’ve really [embraced] food and beverage within all guest touch points throughout the hotel.”
This includes the property’s chocolate welcome amenities, which can be customized to delight guests of group, event and VIP bookings. “One of our signature amenities is a chocolate sphere. We serve it with a hammer, and when you smash the chocolate sphere open, there’s candy inside,” Hawryluk explains. His team has also crafted custom pieces, such as a chocolate Formula-1 race car.
“Today, the quality of products, as far as [the pastry department] is concerned, has become so advanced thanks to various influences,” shares Rahul Korgaokar, director of Operations, JW Marriott the Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa, pointing to cultural influences and technology as key influencing factors. “Gone are the days when you said ‘pastry’ and it only meant an opera slice…Nowadays, you’ve got to be ready to have lemongrass-infused cheesecake and offerings like that.”
In fact, within the realm of pastries and confections, unique signature offerings increasingly play an important role in many properties’ brand identities.
Thomas Oliver, executive pastry chef, The St. Regis, Toronto, notes, “At St. Regis Toronto, we’re known to offer luxurious and high-end dining experiences, so our pastries and desserts definitely play a significant role.” This includes complimenting LOUIX LOUIS’ fine-dining menu, the hotel’s signature afternoon tea and creating personalized amenities.
For example, the King’s Cake has stood as the signature dessert at The St. Regis Toronto’s LOUIX LOUIS since its opening in 2018. This extravagant 13-layer chocolate cake is a crowd-pleaser and social-media darling featuring guayaquil ganache, hazelnut-chocolate buttercream, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.
At W Toronto, Hawryluk’s team creates a fashion and beauty-inspired high tea — the High Beau-Tea — that neatly ties into W’s brand pillars, which include music, art, design and fashion. This distinctive, themed take on a high tea is served in a makeup case and features items such as an edible strawberry ‘lipsticks’ and clotted ‘night’ creams, paired with floral loose-leaf teas.
Incorporating unique partnerships and local, seasonal ingredients also plays an important role in creating inspiring and memorable moments for guests. As an example, Oliver points to a recent opera-themed partnership for St. Regis Toronto’s afternoon tea menu.
“We collaborated with the Canadian Opera Company, to bring people in with something interesting,” he explains. This included an opera cake made with a Canadian twist, which featured maple joconde, Ontario blueberries and pears. “Local tie-ins like that resonate with our guests and bring in different experiences,” Oliver adds.
And, as the hotel’s director of Marketing, Yiting Mao, explains, specialty and seasonal menus play a significant role in generating ongoing appeal. “We want our guests to keep coming back and that’s why we always refresh our menus and connect with the seasonality or with different partners.”
The team at Victoria’s Fairmont Empress also embraces seasonality in its pastry program. “Seasonal offerings allow us to get creative, switch things up, and have fun,” shares the hotel’s executive pastry chef, Gerald Tan. “We look forward to upcoming holidays and special events to bring in something unique yet reflective of the season and everything that comes with it.”
And, special events often present the opportunity to create unique and spectacular offerings. For example, W Toronto’s Skylight Bar & Restaurant will feature themed brunches for events such as Easter and Mother’s Day, which feature an over-the-top dessert buffet dubbed ‘The Dolce Den.’
This indulgent experience features live-action stations, including chocolate fountains, cotton-candy machines and build-your-own ice cream stations, as well as chocolate sculptures and a curated selection of desserts.
At its core, the role of a successful dessert and pastry program is about creating special moments and memorable experiences for guests.
“The pastry department touches all outlets in the hotel and plays a key role in defining guests’ experiences at Fairmont Empress,” says Tan. “It is really important to evoke a positive feeling by tasting desserts. Each guest experience will be individualized, but guests will always remember the dining experience when they feel something.”
“A lot of desserts actually play a very important role in the whole guest experience,” Korgaokar adds, pointing to guests celebrating special occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays and engagements — not to mention weddings and other group events hosted at a hotel.
As Oliver notes, whether it’s as an in-room amenity or a dessert at the end of a meal, these sweet creations act as “the cherry on top” — adding an extra layer of memory-making and indulgence to the guest experience. “That’s why they say ‘save desserts for last,’ because it really does make an emotional impact.”