Esteemed Pastry Chef Preps for PD Food & Wine in Blackhawk Kitchen


It’s a Thursday morning and the scents of cake batter, cinnamon, and cream cheese fill the Blackhawk Kitchen as Zac Young, a pastry chef well-known for his appearances on the Food Network, prepares his famous molten carrot cake with two of La Quinta High’s Culinary Academy students, Elijah Hicks ’18 and Zachary Wisdom ’18.

Young is at LQHS preparing a dessert for the eighth annual Palm Desert Food and Wine, a three-day event of chef demonstrations, food, beer and wine tastings.

His culinary journey started with a cookie. Like many college students, he didn’t know how to bake. “So, I just started making them in my apartment. That’s when I was like, ‘Oh! This is kind of cool and delicious,” he says.

A few years after college, he reflected on the fact that cookies constantly consumed his mind, especially when at work. “My vegan mother, of all people, said, ‘Well, why don’t you go to culinary school?’ because all I’m talking about are cookies,” the energetic chef recalls, as he cracks eggs for the carrot cake. “I didn’t realize that was an option because I had already gone to college.”

Young later received his chops at Walnut Hill School for the Arts as well as the Institute of Culinary Education. For high school students looking into pursuing a culinary career, Young advises, “Don’t do it,” prompting laughter from those in the kitchen.

He admits the job is time-consuming, exhausting, and laborious. “A lot of people think being a chef is sexy, but it’s not,” he explains. “[It’s] ultimately very rewarding because what we’re doing is feeding people and making people happy.”

He notes that the career is a “labor of love,” and so, his real advice to aspiring culinary artists is to pursue their passions. “You just have to love it because if not, you’re going to be miserable,” he says. “I think, like anything, you have to love what you do because there’s no glory or money or fame in it.”

You just have to love it because if not, you’re going to be miserable.”

— Zac Young

With a small laugh, he says, “Even though my mother is a terrible cook, and I’ll go on record saying that, my grandmother was an amazing cook. She kind of gave me that love of food.” While he admits the talent for cooking skipped a generation in his family, his grandmother became his biggest source of inspiration because of her work ethic, as she owned her own restaurant back in the day. Her recipes and conversations about food played an important part in sparking his culinary curiosity.

Named one of the top ten pastry chefs in the United States, Young cooks and bakes it all, but he prefers baking. “I like the arts and the science of [baking] versus the more free-falling savory cooking,” he explains. “I like the structure and the architecture so I just kind of gravitated towards pastry.”

Back in the Blackhawk Kitchen, Wisdom prepares for the desserts by measuring flour and cutting butter into cubes. “[Chef Young] is really nice. He showed me a couple of new tricks,” he says. “Overall, it was a good learning experience.”

Young is expected to break bread likely his molten carrot cake and dish about his process with attendees at the food and wine festival this weekend from March 23-25.