If ever there were a moment in history when the world needs the comfort of a lovingly crafted sweet, that time is now. These worthy nominees for this year’s CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Best Pastry Chef are more than up to the task of delivering endorphin-pumping desserts and baked goods to the quarantined masses.
While some finalists on this list oversee the vast bakery programs at Austin’s most recognizable restaurant empires, others have carved out their own unique niches. Each of them is a powerhouse of talent in their own right, keeping Austin riding a healthy sugar buzz through the doldrums of pandemic. When the history books are written, it may turn out to be the pastry chefs who usher us through these tough times with some welcome whimsy and good cheer.
Learn more about the nominees below, and then tune in on Thursday, July 23, at 7 pm as we reveal the winner during our first-ever Tastemaker Awards — Virtual Edition, hosted by Bun B to see who really takes the cake. It's our way of celebrating the extraordinary spirit of the Austin restaurant and bar scene during this challenging time. Tickets to the virtual event are on sale now and include a Tasting Tote featuring bites, sips, and more to enjoy at home.
Alex Manley and Jennifer Tucker, Swedish Hill, McGuire Moorman Hospitality
Given the ubiquity of the MMH brand in Austin’s restaurant world, chances are you’ve tasted some confection from this pastry power duo somewhere along the way. Manley and Tucker are the artisan curators of the baking and dessert programs across the MMH family of restaurants, but they’ve set up shop at the brand’s central bakery, Swedish Hill. Order online any time to enjoy breakfast pastries, sourdough sandwiches, and one of Austin’s best New York-style bagels.
Sarah Prieto Listrom
Pastry chef Sarah Listrom (née Prieto) showcased her talents at some of the city's most innovative restaurants, including Barley Swine and Counter 3.FIVE.VII. Listrom was most recently at Vixen's Wedding, and now she's whipping up her own custom cakes, pastries, and more for private clients.
Amanda Rockman, New Waterloo
Boasting a Michelin-starred pedigree from her time in some of Chicago’s finest kitchens, Amanda Rockman helms New Waterloo’s pastry and baking operations across the brand’s many properties in Austin, including Sway Thai, La Condesa, and all the eateries at the South Congress Hotel. You might also recognize her from one of her many appearances on the Food Network, including her triumph over a certain swaggering New York chef on Beat Bobby Flay.
Aaron Seriff-Culick, Paper Route Bakery
Chef Aaron Seriff-Culick bootstrapped his way onto the Austin culinary scene with a Kickstarter campaign back in 2017 that exceeded expectations and allowed him to open Paper Route Bakery via a walkup window at East Austin eatery Cenote. Paper Route specializes in crafting familiar treats into next-level indulgences using ethically sourced organic ingredients, with whimsical twists on scones, cookies, and homemade pop tarts.
Jules Stoddart, Olamaie
Jules Stoddart is a great example of how small the restaurant world truly is. Before taking on the roll of Executive Pastry Chef at Olamaie, she worked with fellow nominee Amanda Rockman in Chicago before coming to Austin to help Rockman open the South Congress Hotel in 2015. Though Olamaie was one of the first to shutter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant is reopening soon as Little Ola’s Biscuits, a take-out only version of the restaurant, where you can sample some of Stoddart’s finest confections to-go.