World champion pastry chef offers hands-on classes and pastry kitchen fun
If I were going to Las Vegas, instead of leaving money on the table or in what used to be called a one-armed bandit, I would spend my dough on dough. I would try to improve my pastry skills in a hands-on class at the School of Pastry Design. It opened last year, the brainchild of Chris Hanmer, the youngest member of the US Pastry Team that won the World Pastry Championship in 2004. I would love to learn how to create colorful, edible, life-size pastry or chocolate art. I’m only suited for an single introductory session, but those more experienced and gifted than I can take a master class, and there are professional classes for those in the biz.
Hanmer is a former pastry chef for several AAA Five Diamond hotels and he had been on Food Network. In fact, he reportedly created “flexible chocolate,” a technique he invented while in the midst of a Food Network Challenge. To win pastry competitions, he created spectacular sugar sculptures and chocolate showpieces. His pastry artistry has also appeared in major global food magazines. Among his consulting gigs, he was the opening trainer for Ritz Carlton Denver in 2007.
He now reigns over what is described as “a fantasy studio kitchen in Las Vegas,” which to me is redundant, since almost everything there is a fantasy. “You have to see this place to believe it,” he says. Not a fantasy but a dream come true is the opportunity to time learning or mastering the art of pastry design. Classes do or will range from basic pastry techniques (that’s me) to chocolate and sugar showpieces for professionals. And for those who would rather taste than try, the offers school chocolate tastings, chocolate parties and a unique something called a “chocolate laboratory.”
“It’s amazing to think that the dream kitchens of food competition TV shows now have a match in Las Vegas, and that anyone can come in and create sugar, chocolate and pastry magic and have a great time in the process. The fact that we’re using superior professional equipment, ingredients and instruction just adds to the experience – and it truly can help make anyone feel like an artist.”
The school offers custom-scheduled and custom-designed recreational/social baking classes for well under $50 per hour, per person, based on the subject matter and probably also the number of students. Especially in the context of Las Vegas, this is a real bargain. Consider the cost of time at the tales or slots, a ticket to a hot act in a casino showroom, dinner in one of the big-name chefs’ restaurants, even though the celebrity chef is highly unlikely to be around. At the School of Pastry Design, the odds are pretty good that Chris Hanmer will be around — even teaching or demontrating. Those who know him say that he is amiable, flexible and down-to-earth — in addition to being incredibly talented. If you’re heading to Las Vegas in the spring, check out the school’s will launch planned First Friday social series this spring. It should be up on the website sometime this month.
The School of Pastry Design is at 6627 Schuster Street, Las Vegas, NV 89118-4420; 702-523-9390.