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Dessert University    by Roland Mesnier & Lauren Chattman order for
Dessert University
by Roland Mesnier
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This is the epitome of dessert cookbooks - as much a textbook as a treasure trove of wonderful recipes. Don't be put off by the word textbook. If you're serious about producing lovely-to-eat and even more lovely-to-look-at desserts, this is very definitely the book for you. Chef Mesnier's passion for pastries started when he was a young teenager in Bonnay, France. He progressed slowly, learning all he could as he worked in various bakeries and restaurants. This eventually culminated in a career as White House Pastry Chef! He performed his duties there for twenty-five years, creating new and beautiful desserts for heads of state, kings and queens, guests of the First Family and, of course, for the First Family itself. His credentials speak for themselves. His move into teaching seemed a natural step, as he remembered all the chefs who taught him his art. He now passes along that art in Dessert University.

In your enthusiasm, don't plunge into the recipe section first. Take your time and get to know the man and his motivation to do what became his life's work. There's a short but vital section on what Chef Mesnier calls 'five golden rules that have guided me in the kitchen and that inform the rest of this book.' Don't skip this. It's a must-read. After a short primer on how to use the book, utensils and ingredients, you are ready for the glorious section of dessert recipes and how-to. Keep in mind that Chef Mesnier prefers simplicity in both preparation and presentation. I had trouble getting beyond the first sampling of fruit recipes. I want to taste them all. I mean, who could resist Carmelized Costa Rican Pineapple? And I can hardly believe the combination of ingredients for Corn Ice Cream with Tequila Parfait!

There isn't one page that doesn't offer a mouthwatering delight. Keep in mind, though, that along with the wonderful ideas for new and different desserts are instructions and helpful hints to achieve the perfection for which you aim. It's not too late to run out and buy this gorgeous book for the serious wannabe chef on your gift list. While you're at it, pick up one for yourself. You may not be able to give a lone copy away.

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