Josh Short became the executive pastry chef of Buzz (901 Slaters Lane, 703-600-2899) in June after a buzz-worthy career in restaurant desserts.
After graduating from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, Short began his career in Las Vegas, working at Le Cirque, Spago and the Bellagio. "You could get any product you wanted, get anything you wanted flown in there the next day. And price was never really an object," he said.
Short came to the D.C. area, working for the Star Restaurant Groupâ€™s properties like Zola, Red Sage and Spy City CafÃ©, earning 2005 Pastry Chef of the Year honors from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Most recently, he was in Charlottesville, co-owner of From Scratch Bakery, a gourmet food shop that specialized in pastries. He relocated to the D.C. area and hooked up with the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which put Short in charge of baked offerings and plated desserts for Buzz, Rustico, Tallula, EatBar, Vermillion and Evening Star CafÃ©.
"This is an enormous position for one person to fill, but Joshâ€™s thorough understanding of bakery operations, combined with his exceptional talents as a pastry chef, make him the right man for the job," Michael Babin, owner of NRG, said in a release.
Short, 34, took some time to talk about Buzz, his new adventures in pasty-making and his views on what makes a perfect dessert:
<cl>Whatâ€™s the difference between Buzz before you got there and buzz after you got there?
<bt>Just a new look, like using products from farmers and bringing up the standards of the Neighborhood Restaurant Groups. Doing different kinds of cakes, cookies and cupcakes.
<cl>What, exactly, is a different kind of cupcake?
<bt>We have a Bumblebee Cupcake thatâ€™s kind of unique for us. Itâ€™s a vanilla cupcake thatâ€™s hollowed out and has chocolate sauce inside of it, and itâ€™s topped with a vanilla butter cream and it has a little bumblebee sitting on top of a hive.
Actually, Iâ€™m trying to move away from cupcakes. Everyone is doing cupcakes these days. Weâ€™re known for them, and we have them, but Iâ€™m really going towards the bars now. I have a cheesecake brownie thatâ€™s amazing. Thereâ€™s a Farmhouse brownie thatâ€™s really good â€” espresso with toasted walnuts inside of it. Itâ€™s yummy. Iâ€™m working on a red wine brownie now, too.
<cl>Really? Red wine brownie?
<bt>Itâ€™s really cool: You reduce some red wine with cardamom and cinnamon and then add it to the brownie. It adds a whole different flavor. You know, chocolate is very similar to wine.
<cl>Whatâ€™s your responsibility with the rest of the NRG group?
<bt>Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m doing right now â€” getting their menus changed. Itâ€™s a huge operation, plus we have catering. Very few of the items at Buzz are available at the other restaurants; they have their own desserts. At Rustico we have a Guinness cupcake. At Vermillion, Iâ€™m going to do a play on a red velvet cake.
<cl>As a pastry chef, is part of the challenge just trying to find the personality of a place?
<bt>Thatâ€™s very important, because each place is very unique. It also had to reflect the chefs that are there as well. I meet with them, discuss their menus, what theyâ€™d like to see and come up with a pastry menu.
<cl>How did you originally get into pastries?
<bt>Iâ€™ve been into them forever, ever since I was a kid growing up in Nebraska.
<cl>Nebraska, eh? I imagine you had a few corn muffins pass through the oven.
<bt>(Laughs) Exactly. No, I grew up working in a full-line, scratch bakery when I was 14, working every Friday night from 9 at night to 7 in the morning. I went to school in Vermont, and after that is when I got really serious into pastry.
<cl>What did you know about Alexandria before coming to Buzz?
<bt>There are a lot of really good restaurants over here. Iâ€™d go to Restaurant Eve a lot â€” itâ€™s one of my favorite places. I also like Vermillion a lot as well.
<cl>Has the construction on Slaters Lane affected you guys at all?
<bt>No, it hasnâ€™t yet. We thought it was going to really drastically affect us, especially on Friday when it went into place, but it hasnâ€™t yet. Weâ€™re definitely a destination.
<cl>Do you get a lot of feedback on what you make?
<bt>We have a really loyal following, and theyâ€™ll tell us if somethingâ€™s good or if somethingâ€™s not so good. If thereâ€™s an issue, weâ€™ll fix it.
<cl>Whatâ€™s your ideal dessert?
<bt>Oh, chocolate. Like a chocolate mousse. I like what they do at Hankâ€™s Oyster Bar in D.C., when they give you a little plate of chocolate at the end of the meal. Itâ€™s satisfying and sweet.
<cl>Finally, what do you think about places that give gigantic portions for dinner and then leave no room for dessert?
<bt>I think itâ€™s too bad. Thatâ€™s why it should be desserts first, always.