National Post

Pastry chef gained worldwide acclaim

His revival of crème brûlée spawned craze


Dieter Schorner, an acclaimed pastry chef who helped introduce the modern palate to crème brûlée, the silky custard he crafted to succulent splendour at Manhattan’s refined restaurant Le Cirque, died June 21 at a hospital in Fredericks­burg, Va. of a massive brain hemorrhage. He was 83.

He had retired in 2017 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

The German- born, Swisstrain­ed Schorner became an instructor after working for decades at some of the world’s most elegant restaurant­s, including the Savoy Hotel in London. He and his wife also operated the popular Patisserie- Café Didier in Georgetown for a decade beginning in the late 1980s.

He made cakes for former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy at La Côte Basque in Manhattan and cookies for Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s 1974 wedding. First lady Nancy Reagan commission­ed him to craft desserts in the shape of cellos, their strings fashioned from spun sugar, in honour of Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovi­ch.

In 1980, New York Times restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton heralded Schorner, then at Le Cirque, as “the city’s most inspired pastry chef.” He became known for his masterful reincarnat­ion of crème brûlée, a ramekin of custard topped with a crust of charred sugar that shatters at the tap of a spoon.

The brûlée’s popularity, having briefly spiked when Jackie Kennedy’s recipe became public in 1961, had long since sunk into culinary oblivion. Schorner’s revival seemed to spawn a craze that devolved into torch- blown, passion- fruit excess at every pedestrian eatery and in grocery store freezer aisles.

Schorner professed to care most about his legacy as a teacher, first as chairman of the pastry arts department at the French Culinary Institute in New York and then for 17 years at the Culinary Institute of America.

One pupil was Rose Levy Beranbaum, a cookbook author widely considered one of the country’s foremost baking authoritie­s. Beranbaum recalled preparing recipes for her indispensa­ble 1998 volume The Pie and Pastry Bible and figuring she would have to travel to Denmark for her section on Danish pastries.

Julia Child instead advised her, “Oh, just take a class with Dieter!”

She sought out Schorner and was surprised to learn he didn’t rely on a recipe. “His hands knew what to do,” she said. “He had the most loving, most confident hands on a pastry chef I’ve ever seen.”

Dieter Georg Schorner was born in Bavaria, on June 19, 1937.

Starting at age nine, Schorner took odd jobs to help support his family — and found his future while working at a pretzel bakery.

He studied candy and confection- making in Basel, then traversed the globe as the pastry chef on a Swedish cruise ship. To decide between competing offers from two of the world’s top restaurant­s, the Plaza Athénée in Paris and the Savoy in London, Schorner flipped a coin and wound up in England.

He worked at upscale New York establishm­ents including Le Chantilly, L’etoile and Tavern on the Green.

Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis C. Rich


man said “he produced a pecan pie that could take over the South.”

Schorner was next pastry chef at the Willard Interconti­nental hotel in Washington.

His second wife, Sylvia Careaga, survives him along with two brothers and a sister. ( An early marriage had ended in divorce).

Even while working at the French Culinary Institute, Schorner commuted to Washington every Friday to roll dough for croissants at his Georgetown café. In a 1997 interview, he expressed disgust at what Americans had grown to accept as passable.

The additives that most commercial baking companies used to prolong the product’s shelf life and allow it to withstand freezing ruined the delicacy, in his estimation. “They call this a butter croissant?!” he said. “They have no flavour, and you can squeeze out the grease. And so big! This is not good living.”

 ?? Culinar y Institute of America ?? Dieter Schorner once made cakes for Jackie Kennedy
and cookies for secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
Culinar y Institute of America Dieter Schorner once made cakes for Jackie Kennedy and cookies for secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada