Wake up, make coffee, check email — morning routines are an important part of setting the tone and intention for the day ahead. Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas Executive Pastry Chef Tony Gauthier does these things, too, only his daily checklist includes one very important task: preparing more than 50 fluffy, buttery, delectable croissants.
These perfectly folded bites of heaven are the top-selling baked good at this exclusive enclave tucked in the center of the Las Vegas Strip. On most days, the croissants sell out before the end of breakfast service.
“The secret to making a good croissant is a lot of butter,” says the 32-year-old Gauthier, laughing. “It’s more technique than it looks; in fact, it’s a two-day project. You have to prepare the day before and then let the dough rest in the freezer, then in the cooler, and then the next day, you start to do all the folding. Most people don’t realize that you need to focus for two days to make a croissant.”
Gauthier loves his job because of this beautiful, classic process. His team makes all of the hotel’s breakfast pastries, such as plain and chocolate croissants, muffins, and mini danishes. They also provide the pastries for the tea lounge, including those can’t-eat-just-one scones.
The eight- to ten-room amenities that welcome special guests are under his supervision, in addition to custom requests for super VIPs — plus all the pastries and desserts for room service, the pool and banquets, including wedding cakes. That’s a lot of sugar!
The son of a savory chef, Gauthier started making pastry as a teenager in Lyon, France, where he was born and raised. “My dad told me, ‘If you want to be a chef, don’t do the same as me; do pastry or bakery or chocolate.’ He told me, ‘If you don’t like it, I can always teach you how to do savory,’” Gauthier says. “That’s why I chose pastry over savory, and I stuck with it. It’s more precise than other chef jobs.”
At 20, Gauthier was offered the opportunity to move to Las Vegas to work under legendary pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury. Then, he briefly moved to Toronto for a job at Nadège Patisserie, before coming back to Las Vegas and rejoining Maury.
“I wanted to see the whole hotel operation,” he says, “and I became capable of doing everything from banquets to room service to restaurants.”
During this time, Gauthier made his share of elaborate towering sugar presentations and avant-garde desserts. And while he loves to show off with some Instagram-friendly creations from time to time, like a giant Champagne bottle made entirely of chocolate, it’s the classics that captivate him.
“It was really trendy back in 2000 to do massive showpieces,” Gauthier says, “but I think people realized you need to learn the basics first; then, afterward, you go on to those projects once you already have a good background.”
The focus falls on flavor after the technique is honed. When making a pistachio or lemon tart, don’t throw in rose as well. Instead, achieve dynamism with texture. “If I do a pistachio tart, I do a pistachio sponge, and I’ll put the garnish and a light pistachio crème, then the raw pistachio on top,” he says. “You have the perspective of that flavor but with different texture, the crunch from the pistachio, the light crème.”
Gauthier’s favorites to make include canelés, small domed creations with a custard center flavored with rum and vanilla and a thick caramelized crust. He’s also fond of Paris-Brest, named for a bicycle race between Paris and Brest. Shaped like a tire, it’s a puff dough pâte à choux with a hazelnut cream filling.
Gauthier is a purist in most facets of his craft, especially when it comes to his palate for sweets.
“When I eat a pastry, I’m not looking for something super trendy,” Gauthier says. “If I want something that tastes like pistachio, I want something that tastes like pistachio. I don’t like 10 other flavors inside that pistachio pastry.”
There’s also the right time for certain pastries. “I’m never going to eat a croissant in the afternoon,” he quips. In his morning routine, he enjoys a simple croissant with coffee — it’s a part of respect for tradition and a passion for all things simple when it comes to sugar.
Sample Tony Gauthier’s perfect pastries at Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas.
For even more decadent desserts from around the world, see Haute Chocolate.