q & a with cory barrett

Cory Barrett, Ohio native and Lola/Lolita head pastry chef, has been in the food business for 10 years now and thankfully, much of that time has been spent here. He is the man responsible for several popular sweet treats craved by Clevelanders, including the 6 a.m. special at Lola and my husband’s personal addiction, the chocolate pot du crem at Lolita.

1. What are the top 5 spices every kitchen should have? Black peppercorn, coriander, sancho, ancho and star anise.

2. What is your favorite and least favorite thing to make? Favorite is pizza in a wood fired oven; least is Crème Brulee – too many of these in a lifetime.

3. What is your favorite and least favorite thing about Cleveland? The Browns and The Browns.

4. Other than Lola/Lolita, favorite restaurant? Lucky’s Cafe or Momocho. Depends on the mood and time of day.

5. What restaurant do you miss? I haven’t lived in Cleveland long enough to miss a restaurant here, but I do miss Pepe’s Taco’s in Las Vegas. Tongue taco, braised pork cheek taco, goat taco and ice cold horchata – all for under $7. It makes me cry a little.

6. Any hidden gems Clevelanders have yet to discover? Superior Pho. Symon took me to this one and it’s the best I’ve had in the city.

7. You’re having a dinner party, top 5 songs on your playlist? Dave Brubeck/Take 5, B.B. King/Caldonia, Manu Chau/Denia, Guster/Dear Valentine and Nina Simone/Sinner Man (or anything of hers for that matter).

8. What is the best dessert you have ever had? Warm mandarin tart with jasmine sabayon and curried mango sorbet. Chef Florian Bellanger made this for a chef’s dinner at Spago. Michael Laiskonis’s “egg” is possibly the closest thing I’ve had to dessert perfection.

9. What did you want to be growing up? Respiratory specialist.

10. Most famous person you have ever baked for? Chefs would be Thomas Keller, Paul Bocuose, The Galloping Gourmet. People would be The Governator, Harry Conick Jr., Teri Hatcher, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Pink, Dennis Quaid, among others (worked a year in Vegas – Wynn, Restaurant Okada). My favorite would be Yo-Yo Ma.

11. Thirty years from, what is the one thing you will remember about working with Michael Symon? Dinner at Barbutto after the Next Iron Chef finale… and that fucking laugh of his.

12. What’s another hidden talent you have that would surprise people know? Whistling.

13. Favorite guilty pleasure? Chef Derek Clayton’s short ribs. The best I’ve ever had, period. The short rib dish on the menu now is a combo of Derek and Symon.

14. What was your first job? Lifeguard.

15. What is your favorite tool in the kitchen? Knife, offset spatula and calculator.

16. If you could cook for one person, real or dead, who would it be? I wish I could have made a huge dinner for my Grandpa Barrett.

17. What is one foolproof dessert anyone could make? Just picked strawberries with aged balsamic, black pepper and whipped cream. No recipe needed.

18. Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker? Who? Ben & Jerry’s.

19. Last meal on Earth? Tomatoes just picked from the vine with salt and pepper, boiled corn with butter, just picked sweet peppers with cottage cheese, headcheese on rye with mustard, grilled beef with herbs and lemon, grilled scallop with lemon zest and soy, grandma’s elderberry pie, coffee and drink with the people I love.

20. What was your reaction when you learned you were a James Beard nominee? Very grateful.

21. What’s the inspiration behind the 6 a.m. special? One day we had a conversation at Tribute and were talking about what doesn’t go well with bacon and someone said ice cream. So I set out to prove them wrong. Tribute is a restaurant in Farmington Hills, MI. At its peak, Takashi Yagihashi (JBF best chef mid west) was the chef there.

22. If you weren’t a pastry chef, what would you be doing? Knowing what I know now, probably medicine.

23. If you could be the pastry chef in any restaurant in the world for one day, where would it be? Kikunoi Restaurant in Kyoto. There’s something so subtlety disturbing about classical Japanese cuisine. It challenges your palate, makes you find the beauty in what you’re eating and then in the next course punches you in the mouth with a strong flavor. Something so simple can be devastatingly complex and totally amazing.

24. How did you manage to keep quiet about the Iron Chef finale? I know there was a contract, but it still had to be hard. Well, yes, we all did sign an agreement worth a few million dollars that I don’t have, so that would do it. But we were also so busy filming other episodes that there wasn’t much time to think about it. And yes, I would do it all again.


  1. Allison M.
    Posted March 5, 2008 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    For his dessert, the balsamic strawberries and whip cream sounds good — cracked black pepper though? Does offset the sweetness?

    Good interview — He sounds like an interesting guy.

  2. Liz
    Posted March 5, 2008 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree that Superior Pho is one of Cleveland’s hidden gems. I have never had anything bad there! Everything is FRESH and AUTHENTIC. Great meals, great value!

  3. Alexa
    Posted March 5, 2008 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    oh my gosh. the #8 answer sounds glorious.

    i love anything sabayon. mmmmm. i want some now please.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted March 7, 2008 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    WOW! He cooked for Teri Hatcher? I did not know that she eats food.

    Seattle WA

  5. Anonymous
    Posted March 7, 2008 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    our post dinner was at jonathan waxmans barbutto in nyc, not battutto in little italy…although i realy miss battutto and loved marks food…i didnt realize i had a funny laugh..lol….ms

  6. michelle v
    Posted March 7, 2008 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Michael – good catch, I just fixed it. I miss Battuto, too! That was my favorite in town for Italian food – the bucatini all amatriciana was awesome!

  7. Life in Recipes
    Posted March 7, 2008 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I loved everything Chef Barrett had to say about Japanese cuisine, the entire list of reponses were really beautifully stated.

    I was lucky to have the egg dessert by Laiskonis at Tribute many years ago and I can conjure up the taste of that little masterpiece precisely to this day.

    Superior Pho – Pho and Banh Mi combo rocks.