Last Saturday night, while flipping channels on our television, I came across a show called Food Network Challenge. Claire Robinson, the host, caught my eye, because she was in town last fall for the GoodTaste! Pittsburgh Food and Cooking Expo. I didn’t get to meet Claire, but I heard she was really nice. So I paused from my channel surfing to watch for a minute. As the four chefs on the Challenge were introduced, lo, and behold, one of the chefs was from Pittsburgh! Naomi Gallego, the executive pastry chef at the newish Fairmont Hotel restaurant, Habitat, was a Pittsburgh representative on this episode. The episode was called Chocolate Surprise Proposal, and the mission was to have the chefs construct a chocolate creation to celebrate a marriage proposal. Naomi made a light green, swirly chocolate structure with a beautiful white chocolate flower, and although she didn’t win the 10k on the show, she was a winner to me.
Skip to Tuesday, when I had a meeting with Meryl Hellring from VisitPittsburgh. We were talking about food (what else?) and I told Meryl about Naomi and the Food Network show. Meryl suggested we walk across the street to Habitat for lunch. After my savory and earthy mushroom soup, with local mushrooms courtesy of the guys at Wild Purveyors, and a huge grilled tuna sandwich, I mentioned to Tyler, our server, that I saw their pastry chef on TV last weekend. Minutes later, out popped Naomi to say hello. A native of Texas, this talented chef has also spent time cooking in Germany and Washington DC. She loves competitions and is currently training for one with a group of female chefs. It is wonderful to have talent like this here in our city.
Meryl and I were lucky to be able to share two beautifully executed and very tasty desserts from Naomi’s kitchen that day.
Sometimes hotel dining leaves a bit to be desired. But not at Habitat. They focus on local and seasonal foods and I haven’t been disappointed there. So give it a try . . and make sure to try some of Naomi’s fabulous desserts. Oh, and watch The Food Network on February 12 at 6 PM for another airing of the show.