"Rene whispered the news to me while we were working and I didn't believe him. I thought he was joking!" Laura Sawicki recalled. She was remembering the precise moment when chef Rene Ortiz told her that they had both been nominated for James Beard Foundation Awards: he for best Southwest chef and she for outstanding pastry chef. "It's been an incredible year, between Food and Wine [best new pastry chef award] and this. I'm very thankful but I'm a perfectionist. People see me a certain way now but I still feel it's not good enough."
It's always refreshing to catch up with Laura because of her down to earth and humble demeanor. "It's a lot of pressure too. We both need to deliver more and to progress forward together." The soft spoken pastry chef, donning her signature cat eye glasses with her hair in braided pigtails led me into Sway's bustling kitchen. "I'm feeling really excited for Austin's food scene in general," she added.
As we chatted in her pastry station, she constructed Sway's newest dessert, simply called "Soy". Her idea was to create components that are delicious individually but also come together in a sensible way. The dessert is comprised of kobacha squash ganache, soy milk sorbet, brown butter streusel, chocolate mousse, and Nashi pear prepared two ways. For an additional umami oomph, she finishes the dessert with a line of sweet soy.
When I asked her how it felt to create desserts for La Condesa too (Sway's sister restaurant), Laura answered, "it's like a battle in my brain because a lot of the flavor profiles are interchangeable. I'm going back and forth constantly so it can be really difficult. Ultimately, the flavors can interchange but the outcomes are unique."
"At La Condesa we've been doing it for so long so I've strayed from anything traditional. At Sway, I'm still trying to learn about Asian favors, history, and traditions so I try not to stray so far", she added.
Click on the slideshow above to see Laura make the beautiful Soy dessert at Sway.