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Chef's Corner: Rebecca Masson

Dai
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Rebecca Masson

FLUFF BAKE BAR Pastry chef Rebecca Masson garnered a loyal following using the best ingredients for her updated classic treats. (Photo: Julie Soefer Photography)

Find out about your favorite chefs, and where they like to eat, in our Chef’s Corner column. This month, restaurant writer Dai Huynh interviews chef Rebecca Masson.

Opened last May, Fluff Bake Bar is a delicious addition to the vibrant Houston food scene, snagging this year’s Favorite Bakery award from My Table magazine. That’s not surprising when the creative mind behind this dessert destination is the Sugar Fairy herself: Wyoming native Rebecca Masson. 

After her stint as a season 2 Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant, this feisty redhead decided to take on the challenge of opening her own shop. Typical of the Sugar Fairy, she did it her way and on her own terms. She raised $53,000 in seed money through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site where artists, inventors, chefs and other creative types solicit money from friends and fans.

A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Rebecca realized her childhood dream when she opened the Midtown, 1,200-square-foot Fluff Bake Bar (314 Gray Street), a brand she launched in 2011 when she supplied bake goods and custom cakes to top restaurants, specialty markets and coffee shops around town. A fan, I’ve chased her desserts for years at these various locales – most notably Revival Market in the Heights.

The former apprentice of famed star-chef Daniel Boulud has a rare ability of giving homey classics an upscale and often unusual  twist. Her creations bring to mind goodies you might have tasted in Grandma’s kitchen, but elevated to new heights. Recently, Rebecca dusted flour off her apron and sat down to chat about what else? Luscious sweets.

One of your most popular signature desserts is the Couch Potato, a chocolate chip cookie swirled with potato chips, pretzels, corn flakes and marshmallows. Now this may sound like a bad accident waiting to happen. But the cookie tastes amazing. How did you come up with this crazy combo? 

We saw this trend of snacks going into cookies and ice creams, so we decided to give it a try. I took a bunch of cookies as inspirations and threw in all the ingredients I liked best. I have been using pretzels for a long time, like my chocolate pretzel tart. I’ve always enjoy that sweet and salty flavors.

The fast-growing national chain, Shake Shack, recently opened in Galleria Mall. Along with great burgers, I heard that one of your desserts will be featured in their famous frozen custards.

The Veruca Salt devil’s food cupcake with salted caramel buttercream, pretzel and milk chocolate crunch. Apparently before the Shake Shack opened, they were on a secret mission, going to the various bakeries around town to sample the goods. Afterwards, they emailed me to send a box of pastries that I thought would be delicious in a custard. They chose the Veruca Salt!

Fluff Bake Bar is across from the renovated Midtown Park, surrounded by shops and restaurants.

This area is made for progressive dining. It’s pretty walkable. You can easily park and graze. 

Of course, you would end at Fluff for coffee and Sugar Hooker Oreos. But where should we start? 

Oporto Fooding House & Wine (125 W. Gray Street) for tapas. I like the batatas, smashed fingerling potatoes with tomato chutney and garlic aioli. We’ll also order the pizzette with smoked broccoli and ricotta cheese and the bife a portuguesa, a beef tenderloin with fried egg and potatoes.

My second stop would be Izakaya (318 Gray Street), my neighbor. For sure, I would order the mochi and bacon, which is Japanese rice cake wrapped in bacon. Yum! I just love it there; it’s a lively atmosphere. I love sitting at the counter. You can’t call it a sushi counter because they don’t serve sushi; they serve poke. I love watching the chef cut up seafood for the fish salads. You also can’t go wrong with the pork belly katsu, karaage fried chicken or the pork belly don with rice.

Your first gig was at the legendary Hotel Le Bristol in Paris. The City of Lights remains a favorite vacation spot. Now, many people consider the famous and varied macarons from Pierre Hermé as the gold standard. Where do you go for desserts and macarons when in Paris?

I always go to Gérard Mulot on Rue de Seine. To this day, since 2000, he has made my favorite macarons. In the U.S., Big Gay Ice Cream in New York City is delicious. I love what they’re doing, the snarkiness of it. The flavor combos are fun. You get to eat the Bea Arthur (vanilla ice cream with Nilla Wafers and dulce leche) and the Salty Pimp (vanilla ice cream with sea salt and chocolate chips).

Editor’s note: Buzz dining columnist Dai Huynh is a James Beard food-journalism award winner and longtime Houston-based restaurant writer.

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