These four dessert makers are making this a sweet year.
1/4Photograph: Martha WilliamsJulia Fitting, 26, pastry chef at the Boarding HouseBackstory After Fitting graduated from the French Pastry School, she stuck around, completing a six-month internship in the school�s kitchen.At the Boarding House Fitting has her hands in three places at once: the Boarding House bread program, where she makes all the breads for the restaurant (biscuits for the fried chicken, sourdough for the cheese plate, etc.); the casual desserts for the bar area; and the less-casual desserts for the dining room. But even those fancier desserts have a good amount of whimsy. �I�m not a very serious person,� Fitting says. At the Boarding House, desserts are meant to �connect people to the fun part of food,� and she accomplishes this by pairing financiers with dipping sauces and making bombes in the flavors of s�mores.Future More bread, in the form of a proper bread basket for the dining room
2/4Dana Cree, 32, pastry chef at BlackbirdBackstory Cree went to culinary school in Seattle, then made desserts all over the world, including in Denmark, Beverly Hills and at Alinea. �I�ve always been drawn to very modern work,� she says. But she has also sought out mentors who work differently from her, such as Sherry Yard, who became famous for her homey style at Spago.At Blackbird Cree aims to �work with really familiar stuff in an unfamiliar way.� That unfamiliarity doesn�t necessarily come from flavor (�I don�t need weird flavors,� she says) but rather her desserts� appearance. �We want things to be torn, not cut�dropped, not placed.� Whether it�s her chocolate mousse with Concord-grape sherbet, or her pain perdu with roasted apples, Cree�s desserts always feature the elements stacked on top of each other.Future Blackbird chocolate bars are in development. Down the line: �My idea of retirement is an ice-cream shop.�
3/4Ana Shovers, 26, pastry chef at the PublicanBackstory Shovers graduated from art school with a degree in painting and drawing, signed up for AmeriCorps in Philadelphia and only then started working in restaurants. An internship at the Publican led to a one-and-a-half-year stint as a line cook there; shortly after that gig ended, the Publican asked her to take the spot vacated by pastry chef Sam Radov.At the Publican �Because of my art background, color is very important to me,� Shovers says. Also, �I get kind of experimental, [but] it is the Publican, so I have to scale back�if I have five elements, I�ll take away two of those.� Shovers is currently experimenting with ingredients from the Publican�s bar: Her chocolate budino comes with a stout butterscotch, and her cr�pe cake comes with a grapefruit-Aperol sorbet.Future True to Publican style, Shovers is working on debuting a communal dessert.
4/4Bobby Schaffer, 27, pastry chef at GraceBackstory After graduating from Kendall College, Schaffer worked in Spain at El Poblet and for modernist pastry chef Oriol Balaguer. It was with Balaguer that he caught the chocolate bug. When he returned to Chicago, he worked with Curtis Duffy at Avenues while making bean-to-bar chocolates in his apartment.At Grace Schaffer has six desserts on the menu, all of them �super-composed� and with �a lightness to them.� (Example: tiny spheres of cranberry and pine ice topped with a crunchy rye crumble.) He also creates a series of filled chocolates that he serves as mignardises. He starts �with ingredients first,� he says, and then moves forward to �find something that�s truly unique and combines different flavors.�Future Right now, Schaffer is content at Grace (which, to be fair, is only a few weeks old). But ten years down the line, he sees himself owning a chocolate shop.Read more about Schaffer�s desserts.