Interview with Executive Pastry Chef Jove T. Hubbard of David Burke’s Primehouse, Chicago

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After graduating from the American Culinary Federation culinary apprenticeship, Jove Hubbard went on to study baking and pastry arts at The California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Soon after, he was called to open The Peabody Little Rock Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas as Executive Pastry Chef.

After four years here, Hubbard relocated to Chicago to study as an intern under Chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer, Sebastien Canonne, and John Kraus at The French Pastry School. Following his continued culinary education with these renowned chefs, Hubbard held the role of executive pastry chef at The Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans before his current position as executive pastry chef at The James Chicago hotel.

At The James, Hubbard oversees the dessert program at David Burke’s Primehouse, where he masterminds whimsical and creative desserts signature to the David Burke brand. At the hotel, he oversees all aspects of pastry production, including in-room dining, banquets and special events, custom wedding cakes, and all other luxury hotel amenities.

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chef Jove T. Hubbard, the Executive Pastry Chef of David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago, to ask him a few questions tailored  to take a peek at the personality behind his impressive bio.

Describe your pastry style in 3 words.
Clean, classic, and thoughtful

Who are your top culinary influences?
Jacqui Pfeffer, Sebastien Canonne, and John Klaus. They really brought a whole new level of pastry to the US. It’s the way they work (French cuisine).

Is there a process you go through to create a new dessert?
Typically I start working on them a couple of months in advance. I generally know how it’s going to taste before I make it.

What are some of the new desserts you’ve been working on?
I’m putting the finishing touches on a new chocolate tart, pairing Cacao Barry chocolate with coffee ice cream, and whiskey caramel pecans. A new pear tarte tatin with sassafras ice cream and bergamot puree with earl grey tea and crystalized ginger.

What is your favorite dessert at David Burke’s Primehouse?
Madirofolo chocolate tart with chocolate financier, coffee ice cream and whiskey caramel pecans.

Name three of dishes a first time diner at Primehouse should try?
Popovers! Duck egg crème brûlée and the cheese course.

Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
Chef Rick Gresh. He has taught me about cheeses, I always ask for his input and he comes back with a twist I didn’t think of. He has also taught me how to work with more savory flavors.

What advice would you offer young pastry chefs just starting out?
Try to work in as many kitchens as you can, spending 1 year in each kitchen. Work with different chefs and experience different perspectives. If you don’t, you won’t get the real world feel. Working in a restaurant is not so much a novelty but a whole different experience and skill set compared to working in a hotel. I worked in a hotel restaurant and it’s a production. You need both experiences.

What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
I see molecular gastronomy techniques really maturing and the return of classic pastry. Good viable techniques are still around.

What is your favorite off the beaten path restaurant in Chicago?

What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
Blood orange with coconut, Pecans/chocolate/coffee/whiskey, Strawberry with yogurt or fresh cheeses.

Is there a particular chocolate company you like to work with?
Cacao Barry for sure!

What are your top three tips for pastry success?
1. Don’t ever let anyone tell you one method is the best because that’s not always the case and is a common mistake. 2. You should always keep something in your back pocket. Chefs may want a new menu to come out, they will have theirs prepared and you should always carry a spontaneous new menu with you. 3. Don’t be afraid to do something that’s already been done. There are so many great recipes that have been handed down. There is no need to over complicate, make something classic and learn to do it very well.

It seems like chefs often open their own restaurants but pastry chefs seldom do. Would you ever open your own place?
Definitely! It’s hard for pastry chefs to whittle down what they want to do. Pastry is a big field with many areas of specialty. You can’t do all of it. And there is a savory side as well.

Where would one find you on your day off?
Watching sports, cycling, hanging out with friends and barbecuing in the summertime.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? Something you eat when nobody is looking?
Pizza! My favorite topping is mushroom.

After a week of working long hours, what do you like to cook at home?
Soups! Chicken, black-eyed peas, red beans and rice and in the summer I barbecue a lot.

There are many home cooks out there like myself who are not beginners but nowhere near professional ability, so I’m wondering what advice you would give us to take our baking to the next level?
Take a class! I highly recommend the French Pastry School or the Chocolate academy (even though it is more specific). Learn the techniques and practice the recipes over and over again until you perfect it.

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