The 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!