If Chef Adalberto Diaz looks familiar to you, there’s probably a good reason for it. If you’ve ever watched the Food Network you may have seen him in one of their baking competitions (one of which he won). It’s also possible that, as a Harmons customer, you saw him when he was running the City Creek Cooking School, or when he was serving as our executive chef. And then there was the time he won the American Culinary Federation Pastry Chef of the Year national title…. In short, Chef Al, as he is broadly known by, knows his stuff when it comes to cooking and baking.
While he considers himself a connoisseur of all things foodie, his expertise and love comes out the most when he is baking pastries. And if you’ve tried the amazing macarons in our bakery, you have sampled his wares.
Chef Al and his staff keep busy supplying Harmons with tasty macarons, the finicky French cookie that is made with almond flour, meringue, and requires limited moisture and is sensitive to elevation and humidity.
Following a Dream
Chef Al left his position at Harmons on very good terms, as he set out to accomplish his dream—starting his own pastry shop. He now has three locations, and also teaches classes on achieving the very best of your pastries.
He started baking in Cuba at age nine and had his own illegal bakery, as it was not allowed during the Castro-era. He dreamed of coming to America, and he achieved that dream, only to find himself thrown into an immigrant detention camp in Texas. He was eventually released, and he made his way to Utah, where he found work as…a housepainter. Not the ideal job for such a talented chef, but he began to make a name for himself and soon went on to work in the food industry.
Some of the advice Chef Al offers is that it’s not so easy to open your own bakery, so if that is your dream, you’ll want to do some research first. He also believes that while taste is extremely important, it has to appeal to the sense we use first—sight. He is a stickler for beautiful pastries done right.
Macarons take time and skill, much like the chalk artistry you see here from our in-store artist at our Santa Clara location, Kirsten Beitler.
He also has a caring heart, and he remembers what it was like to be in the detention camp. Knowing that they were separating children from their families spurred him to join together with other Utah bakers and food service companies to participate in the Families Belong Together Bake Sale, which raises money for RAICES (The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services).
For more information about Chef Al, and his bakery Fillings & Emulsions, you want to listen to the podcast.
For over 30 years, Chef Adalberto Diaz has been honing his pastry skills. In 2012 he received the national title for the American Culinary Federation Pastry Chef of the Year. He has participated on various Food Network competition shows, including Bake You Rich, which he won.
Chef Al combines the cuisine and culture of his homeland of Cuba with international and French techniques, to take breads and pastries to the next level with breathtaking flavors, textures, and color combinations. He considers his style Latin eclectic, and is the founder and co-owner of Fillings & Emulsions.
At Harmons, we are lucky to have incredibly talented artists at each store, and we’re sure you’ve seen their amazing chalk art as you wander throughout every location. We’re excited to be able to feature some of their work as the featured art on our podcast blog. This week’s art is by Troy Forbush a seasonal artist at Harmons Mountain View.