Pastry chef Claudia Martinez is at the top of her game

Claudia Martinez
Claudia Martinez

Photograph by Brinson + Banking companies

It commences with smooth, chewy coconut-almond cake. White chocolate panna cotta, blended with a bit of infant spinach for coloration, layered with chopped, white wine–poached pears. A number of mounds of mousse, very little toasted-coconut haystacks, finished with a forest-environmentally friendly leaf tuile and tiny pansies.

Claudia Martinez’s desserts are whimsical but unpretentious, with a style that demonstrates her Venezuelan and Southern roots. Her food—exuberantly feminine with a warm, homey main, like pink Pop Rocks on a strawberry shortcake—is playful and unconventional, bold and well balanced. Her meticulously plated creations simply call up pure types, oil painting, modern day architecture, and interior layout. “I never like the dessert to be all a person notice,” Martinez says. “When your spoon hits the dessert, even however it is artfully designed, all of the elements are with each other.”

The 29-calendar year-old, who’s lived in Georgia due to the fact she was 7, commenced building her pastry rep 4 yrs back, operating at Restaurant Eugene before going on to run the dessert application at Very small Lou’s. In March, Martinez joined Miller Union—one of the city’s very best eating places and the leading of the game for an Atlanta pastry chef.

At initially glance, Martinez could not have appeared the noticeable decision for Miller Union, whose past pastry chef, Pamela Moxley, designed quintessentially homey, regular, and intelligent Southern sweets, notably a beet crimson velvet cake. At Small Lou’s, Martinez was better recognised for the avant-garde—a chocolate stiletto, a blondie inspired by the Clermont Lounge dancer Blondie—and for a painterly method drawing on an array of influences, from her abuelita Julia to the chef Dominique Crenn.

But Martinez is an artist focused to her craft, utilizing pastry as a form of expression that bridges the evocative shades and tropical flavors of her Venezuelan roots (in elements like coconut, mango, and lulo—a citrusy fruit with notes of rhubarb and lime) with the location she now phone calls property. It’s no accident that her mini vanilla-glazed donuts—served, when I frequented, with pumpkin-seed cherry crunch and five-spice ice cream—are decidedly reminiscent of Krispy Kreme. It’s what takes place when you improve up someplace. The flavors, textures, and techniques of that location seep into your marrow.

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The kitchen at Miller Union is remarkably modest, about 800 sq. toes, and normally homes 15 folks, not which include servers. They zip back and forth—prepping, chopping, cooking, washing—in the variety of ordered chaos that would make restaurant do the job so thrilling. Sandwiched amongst dishwashers and prep cooks, Martinez appears to be fueled by this electricity. She fills an ice-product maker with a pecan foundation whilst steam billows up on her remaining and a cook dinner picks the cheeks from a substantial fish head on her appropriate. Baggage of leafy pink radishes and okra arrive, alongside with ripe satsuma, which she incorporates into a chocolate-hazelnut mousse. She sees all the things that comes in, guaranteeing that her desserts are in live performance with ingredients and flavors across the menu.

“The only other work I considered about was being a social employee,” Martinez claims. She was born into a family dedicated to public assistance: Her father, Aquiles, is a faith professor, which took them to Denver, where by Claudia was born, then Georgia in 1999. Her mother, Nora, labored as a relatives advocate for Head Start out, and with faith corporations focused to immigrants. Her aunt, Aura, was a social worker, and, in superior faculty, Martinez turned fascinated in combating human trafficking and other human-rights abuses.

Eventually, she felt termed to cook. At age 18, she received her to start with kitchen area career in the now shut Brio Tuscan Grille in Buckhead. She loved it, and her dad and mom agreed that she could go to culinary faculty, but only if she took it significantly. Martinez attended Johnson & Wales in North Carolina, functioning at speedy-food chains—and spending a summer months cooking in New York—before returning to Atlanta, the place she uncovered do the job as a line cook dinner at Umi and Atlas, among the other folks. She hardly ever meant to be a pastry chef, a function quite a few women cooks truly feel pressured into. But even though doing the job the line at Restaurant Eugene, she became influenced by Aaron Russell’s savory strategy to desserts—evident in preparations like celery ganache—and subsequently grew to become seduced by the craft.

At the same time, she taken care of a motivation to the brings about that piqued her fascination in social perform. Currently, Martinez makes use of a part of the proceeds earned via her pop-up, Café Claudia—through which she sells anything from biscuits to sticky toffee pudding—to aid meals workers struggling as a result of Covid-19, and corporations this sort of as the Atlanta Solidarity Fund and Los Vecinos de Buford Highway.

When Miller Union chef and co-operator Steven Satterfield began the search for a new pastry person—one he took very seriously, mainly because he loves desserts—the applications poured in. Martinez stood out. “Her persona was so awesome and quiet, but she experienced a pretty strong level of look at. The flavors ended up refined but powerful at the same time. Nothing at all was much too sweet, and there was lots of salt, which I beloved,” Satterfield states. “Her foods was seasoned.”

The successful dessert, which she ready for her tasting, was crumbled cornbread topped with white wine–poached pears and chevre panna cotta, a blend Martinez came up with on the fly right after seeing what Miller Union experienced on hand, and one particular she continues to adapt. “I participate in off nostalgic flavors, and then try to plug in points that I grew up with or have seen, and put them in far more familiar desserts,” she says.

The irony: Martinez isn’t a significant dessert eater. She’s extra possible to buy sorbet at a cafe than creme brulee. But each individual of her plates is a canvas, and the interaction of designs, textures, and sensory encounter seems to convey her remarkable pleasure. She can not fairly pinpoint the inspiration for her desserts, but she has a present that’s quintessential to artists: the capability to provide her creativity to life—and place it, in this scenario, on the plate.

Anatomy of a dessert

Claudia Martinez dessert

Photograph by Brinson + Banks

Martinez marries an professional grip on pastry technique with a painter’s eye—and a fridge whole of particularly of-the-season elements. Here’s how 1 of her clever desserts breaks down.

1. Coconut cake and Meyer lemon product: the centerpiece of the dessert, protected in yellow-hued white chocolate glaze. It’s shaped in a ring mold designed by a single of Martinez’s mentors, David Vidal, for whom she interned in Sweden.

2. Dots of coconut–white chocolate ganache engage in off the coconut in the cake. Martinez intended the dish to be a less sweet get on coconut cream pie, appealing to diners’ nostalgia whilst incorporating local produce—in this scenario, citrus—that’s at its most effective in the useless of wintertime.

3. Blood orange reveals up two techniques: raw and in a whipped foam, incorporating acidity and “fun texture,” Martinez states. “Steven Satterfield loves highlighting community fruits and veggies.”

4. White chocolate crumbles supply a distinction with all the bordering creaminess.

5. Sprinkles of Maldon sea salt carry out the sweetness. When Satterfield was employing a new pastry chef at Miller Union, part of what drew him to Martinez was that her desserts weren’t overly sweet—and included plenty of salt.

6. Micro chervil pairs effectively with the acidity of the lemon—and it appears very! “I try out to use microgreens and edible bouquets as much as I can,” Martinez suggests.

Again to Pastry Entire world!

This article seems in our February 2022 situation.