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Will Goldfarb hasn’t had the chance to feel the Chef’s Table ‘effect’ yet. His episode from the hugely popular Netflix show’s fourth season, which focuses on four of the world’s best pastry chefs (Jordi Roca, Christina Tosi, Corrado Assenza and Goldfarb), tells the story of the New York-born chef’s ascent from the Cordon Bleu in Paris, through some of the world’s best kitchens, including elBulli, to the opening of the revolutionary dessert-only restaurant and cocktail bar Room4Dessert in Manhattan and its heartbreaking demise, which led to Goldfarb’s eventual relocation to Bali, where, in the town of Ubud, Room4Dessert 2.0 is bringing him international attention once again. But Goldfarb lives in a bubble. “The only thing I’m worried about right now is getting the ice cream ready for an event on Monday,” he tells me in his laid back, friendly Queens drawl, just a few days after the shows airing.
Of course, by the time you read this that is likely to have changed, as a whole load of new people realise that a nine-course dessert tasting menu created from 99% local ingredients – Goldfarb only imports butter and cream – with fun and thought provoking names like Chocobubbles 4 Evah and 10 Years of Solitude, eaten in the tropics of Bali, with cocktails, is exactly what they need in their lives. There’s also a new book out, Room for Dessert, released through Phaidon, with a foreward by Albert Adrià, which tells Goldfarb’s life story through desserts, and includes 40 recipes for every level of cook, from classics such as brûlée and chocolate chip cookies, alongside his avant-garde creations. Again, Goldfarb hasn’t really had a chance to take stock yet, but describes the book as representative of how he’s thought about desserts for the last 20 years. “A lot of the ideas have evolved over time, the techniques have been refined, but the spirit is the same,” he says.
Chocobubbles 4 Evah
10 Years of Solitude
Goldfarb’s desserts have always been hugely personal, they tell a story – don't all the best desserts? But at his core, he has a desire to please and delight, to make people smile. Take for example, a dish called The Sugar Refinery, which is based on Goldfarb’s signature Balinese meringue. When he first arrived in Bali he was struck by the fact that for the first time, he was getting the raw ingredients a pastry chef needs, the ingredients he had been using for years in New York – sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, etc. – as fresh as possible. His discovery of the local palm sugar led him to create a more savoury meringue, which now takes centre stage in a dessert that is some seven to eight years old, but which has developed from a homage to New York and The Great Gatsby, to “a scathing rebuke of the colonial system of sugar plantation exploitation,” to a dish of pure decadence and deliciousness – it also boasts a palm sugar Chantilly, fresh palm caramel and soursop sorbet amongst its many elements.
The Sugar Refinery
Another dessert, simply called Red – watermelon ice, dragonfruit meringue, beetroot juice, roasted tamarillo – is “fresh, surprising and beautiful,” while at the more robust-sounding end of a menu split between ‘satisfying,’ ‘iconic’ and ‘new’ dishes, is Day at the Beach, which consists of pancetta financier, pommel and white beer tartare, that Balinese meringue again, and pastry cream soda. While Goldfarb admits he may, in a previous life, have been provocative for the sake of being provocative, he never now puts more than one ‘risky’ dish on the menu, “but risky and new are not the same thing,” he’s keen to point out.
Day at the Beach
Goldfarb says his dishes tend either to be really hard to make and easy to plate, or the other way round, but what about to eat? Do nine sweet courses (the menu is also available à la carte), no matter how divine, plus cocktails, ever prove too much for some people? “It’s on the limit of what people can finish … we try to kill people in a nice way,” he jokes.
Death by dessert? Sounds like a great way to go.
See more dishes below. Room four Dessert is out now via Phaidon.
All photos: Martin Westlake
Dessert of Mankind
Footsteps, or Bubur Injin
Pom Pom Yeah: The Horse Thief
Who Can Resist My Top Gun
Violet de Meuron