Lincoln Carson- Corporate Pastry Chef for Michael Mina RestaurantsSeptember 15, 2011
As corporate pastry chef for all 19 of Michael Mina’s restaurants, Lincoln Carson moved his home base from Las Vegas to San Francisco when Michael took over the Aqua location on California Street. Lincoln wanted to have one spot where he could be involved on a daily basis with the menu and the pastry staff.
He studied pastry at Johnson and Wales in Providence, RI and worked extensively in New York under many chefs. Working with Francois Payard at Le Bernardin influenced his dessert style the most. There he learned a pastry chef’s should evolve and not be stuck in one place.
The dessert service at Michael Mina is not your typical a la carte menu. The waiter asks you if you would like dessert or not. If you say yes, you get served several different desserts. More of a tasting size portion or a bite or two they are presented one right after another. You can nibble on them in any order you want. Lincolns’ desire is to offer customers multiple flavors and get them to try something they might not normally order. He also believes it brings added energy to the table near the end of the meal. Lincoln is serious about his craft but has fun with it too. Lincoln and I first met years ago at Culinary Institute of America Pastry retreat. Now that he has moved to San Francisco we had the opportunity to reconnect.
EL-What flavors/ingredients do you like best?
LC- Acidic fruits. They have a lot of punch and hold up well to being manipulated in a dessert. Balance is crucial too. I prefer yellow peaches over white as the latter are too sweet. Passion fruit and pineapple in season.
What flavors/ingredients do you like least?
Not many things but- licorice and anise. Too much sugar in a dessert.
What dessert first comes to mind when I mention the following ingredients:
Rhubarb- vanilla, rhubarb soda
Passion fruit- panna cotta
Coconut- sponge cake
Almonds- Almond Joy
What dessert has someone else created that you loved?
Stephen Durfee’s (Pastry chef instructor at the CIA at Greystone) Deconstructed Cocoa Cola. Coke has many ingredients and Stephen was able to pull them out and create a dessert. It was amazing.
What ingredient would you like to see used more in the pastry kitchen or appreciated by diners?
Bitter flavors like coffee and chicory. They need to be used with restraint but they balance sugar. Rose and orange blossom waters.; floral notes
What kitchen tool would you be lost without?
A Vita Prep
What’s your least favorite pastry trend?
The misuse of modern techniques and ingredients. You need to understand the basics of fundamental pastry techniques before trying new things. You can’t experiment on guests.
Where do you like to eat out in the city?
After spending so much time in a kitchen I like straightforward food. Boot and Shoe Service and Namu.
What was the last thing you cooked at home?
A bone in rib eye with pardon peppers.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
What do people not know about you that you wish they did?
I know that I can come off as imposing in the kitchen, and I suppose I am at times, but mostly I’m a pretty nice guy…and I love to ride fast motorcycles.