Max Downtown’s Loyal Pastry Chef Brings a Sweetness to Hartford
Meet Warren Hardman, Max Downtown’s head pastry chef; who believes his job is about more than just cooking up some of the best desserts you can find in the Hartford area – but rather to make people happy through good food, company and decadent design.
From the second we met Warren, he beamed with personality, talent, and diligence – and we just had to get to know him better.
We interviewed Warren on a Thursday afternoon, a time at which you would think a dessert chef would have less on his plate, but not a second went by where Warren wasn’t asked to prep, bake, or plate a dessert.
So, if dessert after lunch becomes a new thing – you can thank our friend Warren.
When and why did you decide to become a chef? What other positions have you held?
“After I got accepted to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), I called my cousin and was like “Look, what should I do? I like food, I like flowers, and I like design.” His cousin said:
“Well let’s see… design is too competitive, you don’t always have to have flowers… but you always have to eat.”
So, I guess I did the right thing.
While I was in high school, I worked at a bakery and a grocery store. My family is a food family and I quickly learned that as long as you’re tall enough to reach the table, you’re tall enough to roll pepperoni.
We have a big Italian family – my mother would take care of all the family parties and we would all help out.
And that’s why I became a chef.”
“I love my job, I love the restaurant, I love people… and I love making people happy. And, I’m Italian so I love making people fat.”
What did you do after you graduated culinary school?
“After I graduated CIA in ‘83, I worked at a restaurant for 14 years where I had a French background. I had a bakery for 2 years, and then I had my own restaurant for almost 10 years called Emerald City in Bethel, Ct.
Then I landed my job at Max Downtown – where I’ve been for 13 years.”
What is your favorite pastry to bake? Do you have a signature dish?
“Now, I have to say the Baked Alaska is my favorite, I love to make it because it makes people SO happy. It’s impressive.”
Do you have a favorite ingredient?
“White chocolate. I always got the white chocolate bunny at Easter” (c’mon Warren, that’s the one nobody likes).
What have you noticed in dessert trends over the years, have you noticed that the ‘old school’ desserts are coming back?
“Very much so, a créme brulee has always been a favorite. It doesn’t matter the flavors you make, restaurants always want to come up with something new, you go around and around, but the vanilla créme brulee always seems to be everyone’s favorite. No matter what you do, we’ve had a malted milk ball, key lime, gingersnap – the vanilla is a classic.”
Is there a chef that inspires you?
“I’m the worst with all of these new chefs – they talk about it in the kitchen and I’m like please, I get home, zonk out, watch MSNBC, and do my notes for the next day – that’s all I do. I try to keep up on it but Chris, my Executive Chef will keep me up to date on the new Instagram trends.”
One of Max Downtown’s new renovations includes a pastry bar – where you’ll find Warren cooking up these decadent (to-die-for) desserts. Next time you head over to Max Downtown, make sure to stop by and say “Hi” to Warren.
But more importantly… order (at least) one of his desserts.