New York City has always welcomed people from all over the world. Its vast food options are endless. Every time I visit the city, I stay over on the Upper East Side, next to the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. During my last stay, I went for a walk and decided to go check out the Jean-Georges casual café, Nougatine, located inside TheTrump International Hotel.
I had dinner at Jean-Georges restaurants a couple years ago and I remembered the attention to detail always caught my attention. The service, the ambiance, and the food was fantastic. I decided to go try some of the plated desserts on the menu. After I tried four of the plated desserts, I asked the waiter if I could meet the pastry chef. Soon after I met chef Sean Considine, corporate chef for the Jean-Georges Restaurant Group.
Originally from Jefferson, a little town in North Carolina, Considine grew up on the farm among chickens, goats, and rabbits. “I always loved cooking. I have a big family and when we get together there could be as many as 50 family members. We eat huge meals, the traditional meal would be turkey and sides, green beans, sweet potatoes, traditional American thanksgiving food”.
When and why did you decide to become a pastry chef?
I started working in restaurants when I was 14 years old. My first job was in my hometown in a deli, making sandwiches. I was in high school so work was good. I saved up and bought a new car.
I left the deli to start working at Novels grill farm to table restaurant. It was the fancy restaurant of a small city. I wasn’t exposed to ﬁne dining growing up. No culinary school, I went to college and did the food and nutrition program. I worked in restaurants all through college.
My ﬁrst real job was at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, which I got through the food management program. One day I asked the chef if I could come work in the kitchen and I worked there for three years, working with savory cuisine. That’s when I saw what real pastry chefs do. I would hang out in the pastry shop and I loved everything that they made, such as wedding cakes and sugar sculptures. I wanted to be more artistic and I thought I would be happy doing something where I could use my creativity.
“In West Virginia I saw what real pastry chefs do. I would hang out in the pastry shop and I loved everything that they made, such as wedding cakes and sugar sculptures, I wanted to be more artistic and I thought I would be happy doing something where I could use my creativity”
The pastry chef of the Greenbrier Hotel told me that I should go work for Charlie Trotter in Chicago. I applied and after three months of waiting they called me and I worked for Charlie Trotter and under chef Alan Gazet. It was a small station, everything came in fresh everyday, with intense working hours, working clean, focused, and organized, keeping my head down and working hard every day. I worked there for five months and Charlie asked me if I wanted to move to Mexico to open his new restaurant. There were three restaurants in San Jose del Cabo at the One&Only Palmilla Resort.
My experience in Mexico was great. Now I have a Mexican wife and two lovely daughters. And after three years at the restaurant, Charlie Trotter left to make room for the new Jean-Georges restaurant. I interviewed with him and he asked me if I wanted to join his culinary team. Of course I accepted so chef Jean Georges brought the team to tour New York to learn his ways in his restaurants, learn his food, work on recipes, and bring some of New York to Mexico.
I worked there for five years, creating new dishes and working with the opening team. When they were opening in Shanghai I would send them going around the menu and desserts I was working on, along with the recipes, so shortly afterwards they invited me to come to New York to take over the Jean-Georges restaurant at the Trump Tower on Columbus Circle.
Do you have free range to create your own plated desserts and pastries or do you have to follow Jean-Georges’ standards?
Jean-Georges is involved in every aspect of his restaurants: concept, menus, architectural design, staff selection, and training. At the beginning when I started the job, I got stuck with the desserts he had. My approach was making them more modern and to update them for this restaurant. Now I manage the creation as far as the direction of the desserts.
“I have been very fortunate to be able to travel as much as I do, though Jean-Georges Vongerichten… I go back twice a year to each restaurant, I usually send them a recipe pack for the spring menu changes and summer menu changes, we go work on those, while there I would make demonstrations”
Can you name some cities around the world where you have been in charge of the creation, development, and training of the staff? How do you manage the staff and quality?
I have been very fortunate to be able to travel as much as I do through Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Businessman and restaurateur, Jean-Georges is responsible for the operation and success of 39 restaurants worldwide. We have two restaurants In Vegas, one at the Bellagio and another one at Aria in Vegas, then in Shanghai, and Tokyo.
Most of the time I’m involved in the hiring, I check on the applicants’ resumes and we hire the best people. For the most part, people know what they are getting into when they come to work for a famous chef, they know the expectations and they are explained that quality is the priority, the food we put on the plate is the best in the city.
Twice a year I go back to each restaurant. I usually send them a recipe pack for the spring menu changes and summer menu changes and we go to work on those. While there, I make demonstrations, and if they have any ideas they can put in the menu, I will do two seasonal menus, and focus on the special events and dinners, and go back again in the fall.
Who was the corporate chef before you? How do you manage the team and what do you take into consideration when hiring a new cook?
Joe Murphy is the former pastry chef of Jean-Georges, I have been at Jean-Georges in New York for over four years. I started as the corporate chef while chef Murphy was still working here, then he left and I took over. At first, it was hard and difﬁcult to start my own team. When hiring someone, I want a person who has a positive attitude, someone who can work under stress, maintain the station clean, be easy to work with, and have attention to detail.
“At first, it was hard and difﬁcult to start my own team. When hiring someone, I want a person who has a positive attitude, someone who can work under stress, maintain the station clean, be easy to work with, and have attention to detail.”
What is a normal day for a corporate pastry chef for Jean-Georges? How do you manage stress?
I start my day at 10:00 AM. We do massive amounts of productions downstairs in the pastry kitchen. We make desserts for different restaurants among which are Jo-Jo, Nougatine, and Jean Georges. We have prep sheets where I write everybody’s production list the night before, setting everyone in the right directions as soon as they get to work the next day. We spin ice cream everyday, we bake bread twice a day for lunch and dinner, and we make desserts for Jean-Georges.
There is a constant rolling in the pastry shop, we do 100 covers in Jean George, overall, we do 400 services everyday in the different restaurants, depending on the day.
I feel like I manage stress by pushing through stress. I don’t really get too stressed out, I take things one step at a time. Try to handle what you can handle and try to knock off things from the list.
What are the elements you consider the most important when changing a dessert on the menu for something new?
Seasonality is a key element to consider when I create a new dessert. I’m not talking about summer, fall, spring, and winter. It is based on what the local vendors bring me that day and if they bring me good fruit that is in season. I take it every time and put it on the menu.
My desserts are very fruit forward so seasonality is the ﬁrst thing that comes to my mind when I create a new dessert by keeping the integrity of the ingredients, making a beautiful presentation that people can enjoy.
“Seasonality is a key element to consider when I create a new dessert. I’m not talking about summer, fall, spring, and winter. It is based on what the local vendors bring me that day”
Where do you get your creativity? How would you describe it?
My desserts are modern, elegant and simple. I feel like less is more: I always end up creating different desserts of a single ﬂavor and then choose what ﬂavors work the best when eating. I think it all starts with ingredients and we try to showcase them in the best way possible.
My inspiration comes from things that surround me. I’m always looking for things in nature and art. I like to showcase what I find interesting and catches my eye, things I notice in my daily life and it comes out in my art, things such as museums, galleries, ﬂowers, trees, etc. I think I let those ideas stir in my head so they later come up as art in my food.
How involved is Jean-Georges in creating new desserts?
He is always very involved when I create a new dessert. We sit down and try the different options I present to him, he gives me his comments and critiques as well as his points of view. We work together to come up with fantastic desserts.
“Jean-Georges and I sit down and try the different options I present to him, he gives me his comments and critiques as well as his points of view. We work together to come up with fantastic desserts.”
There are three different restaurants which are very different from each other. How do you mix and create from ﬁne dining to lunch at a more casual restaurant? What are the guidelines you follow?
For ﬁne dining, I feel like there are no rules to break. The only rule that I have is to never go back to what was presented the previous year. I like to continue advancing in the future. I have to keep pushing and do new things.
For the other restaurants, there is a more casual atmosphere. I usually go with what is in season, pies, tarts, classic desserts, I try to balance the menu by having multiple options in the menu, making sure there are an array of inviting colors in the menu for our guests.