Top Chef Insights

Ever wondered whether a Master Chef's guilty pleasure is simply peanut butter or mac 'n cheese? Want to find out what the latest menu trends will be for the coming season? Always wondered who inspires some of the leading chefs in the industry? We've asked these questions and have the answers for you here.

View archived Top Chef Insights interviews.

June's Featured Chef: Rob Valencia, Executive Pastry Chef, Great Performances

Chef Rob Valencia most recently presented a farm to table demonstration at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of NY

What is the newest trend you see emerging?
Right now, we’re blending savory and sweet by mixing savory elements into desserts. For example, instead of carrot cake, add heirloom root vegetables to your dish. Another trend I’ve seen is enhancing sauces with herbs and vinegar. In 2015, macarons will dip in popularity. Instead, we’ll see éclairs everywhere. Plus local and heirloom ingredients will become more widespread, especially heirloom flour.

If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Mexico City. I’ve never been, but can’t wait to visit. The restaurants there are very exciting because they blend tradition with what’s new. First, I would visit a French/Mexican restaurant, and then an artisan bakery.

Is there one comfort food that you're secretly obsessed with having at home?
Any type of ice cream. I like flavors that incorporate chocolate; regardless, I add fudge.

Which talent would you most like to have that you don't possess?
I would like to be more skilled at cake decorating. My colleague at Great Performances, Sharon Robinson, always impresses me with her beautiful cakes.

What’s your favorite meal to cook for friends?
Steak Frites, followed by a pie made with whatever fruit is in season. My girlfriend gave me a fryer for Christmas, and the first thing we did was make my favorite meal.

If you could cook for and dine with anyone, who would that be?
The late Heather Ho, who was the Executive Pastry Chef at Windows on the World on 9/11. She was my mentor as I was becoming a Chef.

More about Chef Rob Valencia: 

An accomplished culinary artist with over 15 years of experience, Chef Robert Valencia’s background includes positions at restaurants spanning both the East and West coasts, from Boulevard Restaurant and mc2 Restaurant in San Francisco to Blue Fin at the W Hotel in Times Square and "Green" Michelin star-winning Rouge Tomate in New York City. Most recently, Valencia worked with Liberty Tavern Restaurant Group in Arlington, Virginia where he served as the Executive Pastry Chef for the group's three restaurants: Lyon Hall, Northside Social and The Liberty Tavern.

Chef Robert is dedicated to using local ingredients, an approach he has taken to dessert since he first started his career in San Francisco after graduating from the California Culinary Academy in 1999.

As Great Performances’ Executive Pastry Chef, Robert will lend his expertise to all of the private events that Great Performances oversees, including those at the high-profile cultural institutions among the company’s clients, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Apollo Theater, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 


May Chef Insights - Marc Murphy, Benchmarc Restaurants
April Chef Insights - Megan Johnson, Casellula
March Chef Insights - Sara Moulton, Chef, Cookbook Author, TV Personality

February Chef Insights - Barret Beyer, Hell's Kitchen
January Chef Insights - Anton Testino, Mulberry Street Cafe
November Chef Insights - David Binkle, Los Angeles Unified School District
October Chef Insights - Alan Ogard, Lexington Hotel
September Chef Insights - Barbie Marshall, The Farming Chef
August Chef Insights - Cal DeMercurio, Corporate Executive Chef, Black Bear Diner
July Chef Insights - Johannes Bernau, Executive Chef, Who Song & Larry's
June Chef Insights - Ryan Vargas, Chef de Cuisine at Emeril's Tchoup Chop