The Debutante Ball Welcomes Sherry Yard!

Chef Sherry YardThe Debs’ mouths have been watering since we learned Chef Sherry Yard would be taking a spin at the Ball!  Not only has Sherry come to share her thoughts about New Beginnings, but she has also offered two delicious giveaways: a signed copy of her recipe book-cum-autobiography, Desserts by the Yard — From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills: Recipes From the Sweetest Life Ever; and a two hundred dollar gift card good at any Wolfgang Puck fine dining restaurant worldwide.  Keep reading after the post for details!

Widely regarded as one of America’s finest pastry chefs, Sherry Yard is the innovator of sweet endings for the Wolfgang Puck empire.   Since her arrival at Spago in 1994, Sherry’s incomparably creative and fresh from the farm desserts have played leading rolls at the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball, Grammy Awards and Emmy Awards.  Her honors are numerous, and include the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef.”  She also devotes time to several charities, including Meals on Wheels, the Special Olympics, and Women’s Cancer Research.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband Edward… who has a sweet tooth.

Everyone always notices I wear a pink chef’s jacket — “for breast cancer, not for Barbie,” I say.  But what they don’t know is how that began.

When the movie Freaky Friday came out — the Lindsay Lohan one — Disney hired me to do a tea for the children who came to see the show.  There were three services throughout the day, and after the movie, we’d have 750 moms, girls, boys… they’d all come to us and we’d have tea sandwiches and cookies.  And Disney was so excited that I’m a pastry chef and I’m a woman, and they wanted to show all the little girls, maybe get some tape of the girls meeting and talking to me.

So one of the Disney PR people is leading me around, and she takes me to table after table, and she keeps leaning down to the girls and saying, “Hey… would you like to meet Sherry?  She’s a  chef!  She made all the cookies you’re having today!”

Not one girl is paying attention.  Of course they’re not — Belle and Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are strolling the tables — who’s going to pay attention to anything else?

Finally the PR woman finds this beautiful little girl, maybe four years old, dressed like Belle in a gorgeous yellow gown with pearls and sparkles everywhere.  She gets the mom’s permission and stands the girl up on her chair, so she and I are eye to eye; then the PR woman tells the little girl about me being a pastry chef and making all the cookies, and finishes up with, “Do you want to be a pastry chef one day?”

This four year old… this tiny little thing looks me up and down from head to toe… and she starts to cry!  She says “I don’t wanna be a pastry chef, I wanna be Cinderella!”

Now let me explain something — I wasn’t dressed the way I dress now.  I didn’t really think about me and what I looked like back then, because I’m a chef and I’m behind the doors.  It’s not about me, it’s about what my food tastes like.  Looking back, there was a little bit of an ego in that: I don’t have to pay attention to what I look like; I can wear the giant shapeless jacket; I can have my hair severely pulled back from my face; I don’t need any of the trappings.

But then there I was with this four year old crying her eyes out in front of me… and I started to cry because I want to be Cinderella too.

And then I realized… people taste first with their eyes.  And this little girl wasn’t seeing anything so yummy.  And much as I thought I could stand back and let the food represent me… I represent me, too.  I knew I had to make a change.

Right after the last tea that day I ran to Pavilions.  I stood there in front of all the Rit colors and thought, “What color do I want to be?”  And at the time my aunt was going through breast and ovarian cancer, and my grandmother had passed of breast cancer, and I thought of pink.  Because I wanted to look better, but I didn’t just want to look better — I wanted there to be a purpose.  I went home and dyed my jacket pink, I found the breast cancer logo to put on my collar, and when I showed up at the tea the next day, I looked totally different.  I had the pink jacket, I let my bangs show, and I’d put on a beautiful headband that looked like a tiara.

And you know what?  Every little girl wanted to know who I was.

In a way it sounds sad, like it’s all about appearances, but it’s not.  When I was dressed like I didn’t care, it was reflecting things inside me that weren’t so beautiful.  But when I changed and let the beauty inside show on the outside, that’s what got the little girls’ attention.  And when they liked what they tasted with their eyes, they stayed to find out more: about being a pastry chef, about why I chose the color pink… things we never would have gotten to share otherwise.

It was a New Beginning that came from a very unexpected place… and I’m still grateful for it today.

Thanks so much for that wonderful post, Sherry!  And just for the record, Deb Elise says she was at your wedding, and you are absolutely Cinderella!

As we mentioned above, Sherry has generously donated two giveaway items this week: an autographed copy of Desserts by the Yard, as well as a two hundred dollar gift certificate to any of Wolfgang Puck’s fine dining restaurants worldwide.  To enter, just leave a comment below.  We can’t wait to hear from you!

20 thoughts on “The Debutante Ball Welcomes Sherry Yard!

  1. Oh welcome! I am an home baker – I’ve said often that mixing and scraping (I just read Buddy “Cake Boss” Velastro’s book and he was adamant: “BAKERS SCRAPE!”) is pure therapy for me. And my Italian roots demand that I feed people constantly. I even found Baker’s Ammonia and Orange Water at my local grocery store to tackle his recipes. But pastry is another level of WOW. And I am not quite there.

    My 3 girls have autism – and we are on the gluten free casein free diet – no wheat no dairy. King Arthur Flour and even Old Betty Crocker have come out with great GF mixes that taste good and are much easier for the home baker than mixing flours and Xanthan gum and hoping for the best. I’d love to see a well known chef tackle GFCF. I try to make their treats looks as nice as possible. Their friends have store bought artificicial perfection – and sometimes homestyle love just doesn’t cut it! Presentation does matter – it’s like a first impression or those opening pages of a book. What makes a person reach for cupcake #1 instead of another pastry? For me, sheer proximity, but usually it’s the look.

    My childhood friend Wayne Podell went to work for Wolfgang Puck many years ago – even then we knew to be impressed. Today? Fuggedaboudit! I saw a special with Puck – where he cooked with his Mom. It was so charming and I couldn’t stop smiling.

    I was just thinking of what to bake for the darling man who cleared our driveway at 10pm last night after 8″ of snow. Cannoli cake sounds like the right amount of effort required.

    Welcome to The Ball – I assume we’re serving dainty Petit Fours and tiny cream pufffs drenched in chocolate. If there are any left on the plate…

    KIM

  2. Wow, what a great contest! Sherry, you make an excellent point — presentation is important. It doesn’t make up for a lack of substance, but it absolutely enhances a quality product. Loved your story about the crying little girl, too. I felt for both of you. 🙂

  3. I used to feel the same way about writing — that my work on the page should stand for itself — I shouldn’t have to present myself as well. But the truth is it does matter, and for the most part it matters for all the right reasons. The outside is often a reflection of what’s going on inside. No, a beautiful surface isn’t enough, but when that beautiful surface draws people to the wonderful, quality thing beneath it, that’s phenomenal.

    And I’m not kidding about you at your wedding — pure Cinderella… which is why it’s so appropriate you’re here at the Ball!

    Love you, Sherry!

    E

  4. it was of nice to read of you story. my son who is of age 19 now was significantly involved on the autism spectrum as a younger child. he struggles with so much aggression , and behavior. we had of him into intenseive therapies and treatments to help of him cope the ever changing sensory world for him. Now at age 19 he is attending hims first culinary school. He wants more than anything to be a chef someday and own hims own business. this is of hims dream. When he was little I worried if he would be able to even live independently and or have a job or even a dream to reach for , but today he has worked so hard to get there and is striving towards goals and dreams. I to wonder for him what the next 10 years will be to hold for him. I to wonder what inspired you as a child or when did you know you wanted to do the work you do? thank you for to shared you story here.
    sondra

    • Good morning, Sondra — it’s always a pleasure to see you come into The Deb Ball with a comment. Congrats to your son – people with autism can have wonderful careers – their focus can lead to great accomplishments, if they have enough support patience and love around them. You’re a shining example of that as an adult woman, wife, Mom on the spectrum yourself.

      KIM

  5. I LOVE this post! I love the phrase “first you taste with your eyes.” I adore the pink jacket. Cooking is magical. Why shouldn’t the chef be, too? Brava!

  6. Hi Sherry
    Thanks for sharing your story – it was great! I cook/bake for my family (husband & 2 boys with autism), and for my sister-in-law (I cook/freeze a week’s worth of gluten free/organic meals at a time for her family). I always just throw on an old t-shirt and a pair of sweats when I’m in the kitchen(it’s comfortable and I’m a messy cook). My appearance was just about the last thing on my mind; thinking everyone just wants the food to look and taste good- who even notices me? Right before Thanksgiving I bought an apron (a first for me), thinking only that it would protect my clothing as I cooked & served dinner. My cute paisley apron did it’s job of protecting my clothes, but it was also a hit with everyone – including me; I looked and felt the part of cook/hostess! I spend a few days a week helping my sister in-law with childcare, but the kids now know that when I put on my apron on Friday (okay, I admit I’m often still wearing the sweats under it) I’m there to cook for them! My 5 year old niece loves to help me – maybe I’ll add a tiara to complete my ensemble this week!

  7. I love this story- a new beginning with a purpose! I’m a stay-at-home mom to three little boys and sometimes I forget how to be pretty. Or, quite frankly, I just don’t see the point in getting dressed. However, as my boys start getting a little older and a little more independant (my youngest is 4) I’ve been embracing my inner princess and have started trying to make more of an effort with my appearance (while still being me). I love that you changed your look for a purpose and I’m so glad that the little girls wanted to know all about you!

  8. What a beautiful post! I identified with this so much! Thanks so much for coming by The Ball, Sherry! And, Jonita, as a mom of two (almost three!) little boys, I hear you on this front. Lately I’ve been wearing earrings, and it makes me feel a little more put together even if I’m still just wearing black leggings all the time! xo

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. I love your candor. I stay at home and home teach two boys on the autism spectrum. We love to bake. You’re so right. The boys got real chef hats and boy aprons for Christmas. They feel so special in them, and I have always loved flirty aprons. Some days I feel so tired, and don’t want to do anything extra, but once I do my hair and put on a little makeup it helps pick me up. Your book looks fabulous, and it’s so nice to “meet ” the author. I wish you great success.

  10. Sherry, what a lovely and meaningful post. Although we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover that’s what we tend to do, so changing your look for a (dual) purpose only helps young girls to think of other careers. Besides, there’s no doubt you are “pretty in pink!”

  11. What an inspiring post! I totally agree that you need to show on the outside what you’re really all about on the inside. I’m trying to teach my 12 year old daughter that lesson. I’m going to have her read your post!

  12. Sherry, I love your story about how you came to wear a pink chef’s jacket. So true that “people taste first with their eyes”. Your inner beauty shows in the gracious way you tell this story.

  13. I to been of thinking much of the words you shared about the inside and outside, and the concept of cinderella. Was of wondering why Cinderella? why did you not stive to be of any of the other princesses? and yet i to thinked more on the Cinderella and found that among of her adveristy and life circumstances she did not grow of bitter, she was of not born with a status of wealth or things and she worked hard ,,, but she was of a dreamer. some of the other princesses were of born to a status of welath or royalty, but not cinderella, she was of a dreamer girl. She dreamed of a better life but worked within the realm of her life as this was all she knew, but she did not let of life dictate to her she dreamed…. she dreamed of a better life… she was of not rude or vicious in obtaining it, she was of not selfish and or manipulator of things for personal gains, she took of the life day by day and was of wealthier than most within her dreams…. I to now get of it why you wanted of to be of cinderella. I to be of to relfect and think of self yes much of my own life I to have been of this cinderella reaching for hidden dreams within me. not wanting for selfish reasons a better life , just for self wanted a life of where I to be of exist and can have of a dignity and sense of self worth within. I to not be of cinderella the cinderella but i too feel as if I to be of cinderella the princess cinderella in my own ways.
    it takes of me time to process words and information but when my brain gets stuck and wants to gain I just keep relfecting of the words until meaning comes. thank you again for to share of you story here. Kim is of a much much good freind of me and so like ofher blogs and work and things she shares so it was of a good things for me to find this debutante ball place too.
    sondra

  14. Thanks for the post Elise!

    Sherry, I enjoyed reading your reasons behind the pink jacket. My mind walks a fine line between wanting to be accepted for who I am (regardless of window dressing), and knowing that ‘putting your best foot forward’ is still required to get ahead.

  15. What a beautiful and insightful post! I’m in month 18 of treatment for advanced breast cancer and not currently working, but I think I’ll dye my jackets pink in anticipation of returning soon. Love it!

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