A Sweet Preview of Yigit Pura’s Pâtisserie in San Francisco

By Karina Mendoza Calayag
Photography by JD Estella

I must’ve gotten hit by cupid’s arrow today or at least that’s what it felt like when I left; charmed and enchanted.

Stepping into a room of rose-adorned tables, with roses emblazoned onto the raspberry-red-logo sacs and boxes decking the walls, as images of decadent desserts floated on clouds of trays, and the fleeting hints of stars, jewels or perhaps fireworks in the hand blown glass vase lighting lazily dangling from the ceiling above – There was no need for the flowing champagne, in flutes passed by the poised servers, to take either my imagination or the invited guest’s palpitation any further. The anticipation and the excitement at Yigit Pura’s TOUT SWEET Pâtiserrie pre-opening was so tangible it could be sliced out of the air and served just as well.

Apparently the clock wasn’t ticking loudly with each passing moment closer to the approaching September 8 opening day, crunch-time whirlwind stress apparently didn’t get an invite to this event. There was only composed exuberance from the gracious hosts of the evening, TOUT SWEET owners Yigit Pura and partners Janet Griggs and Meme Pederson of Taste Catering and Event Planning. Fun and frivolity wafted throughout the light, bright, bold and vibrant room like the aroma of all that was sweet.

With Janet Griggs, Karina Mendoza Calayag, MeMe Pederson and Yigit Pura at Tout Sweet Patisserie.

Formidable Team

Trailblazing maverick Yigit [pronounced “Yeet”] Pura is a bright young star who gained his luminosity while working in top kitchens in SF including Postrio and Gary Danko. He moved to NY in 2003 to work at the famed Le Cirque 2000, the five-star Four Seasons Hotel then on what he would call his “golden step,” as the Pastry Sous Chef at world famous restaurant Daniel, under Master Chef Daniel Boulud. After two and a half years, he was promoted to Executive Pastry Chef for Daniel Boulud in Las Vegas.

Yigit joined Taste Catering and Event Planning as Executive Pastry Chef beginning 2007. It was here he was crowned BRAVO’s Top Chef Just Desserts winner Season 1 in 2010.

Coupled with the dynamic duo, Meme and Janet, veteran stalwarts who’ve built a “well-oiled” three-decades-strong machine, experienced in handling a multitude of mercurial operations, even without oven mitts they make the perfect recipe for an enduring, built-to-last success.

The effervescent Charly Zukow (Zukow & Associates), Taste’s ambassador to us media folk, greeted me at the door and escorted me to meet the formidable team. Proud and happy, Janet and Meme told me that this is a first for all the partners. “TOUT SWEET is our first venture outside the catering and event planning business.” It is also the first store of the popular and still rising Yigit. Having worked with each other successfully for five years, it is but a natural step for this new partnership to be forged following Pura’s dream. And they are already looking beyond. “We are very happy with our relationship with Yigit. It is our plan to replicate TOUT SWEET in many, many locations” says Janet.

There’s Something About Pura

Yigit began his culinary training at the age of four in Ankara, Turkey while helping his mom make spoonfuls of dark caramel. He has come a long way since then. Featured twice as the celebrity chef for President Obama and as Gala Chef at the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards in New York, he remains lit up with childlike wonder.

Delightful, bright-eyed, warm and down-home friendly Yigit was all smiles as he walked me around his dream-come-true store. Who better to tell the story behind each design aspect and serve the whimsical pastry shop’s “inspired lines” than the chef himself? Inspired by Nikola Tesla and his unique vision to translate electricity into power, Pura created ”TESLA”, a tart with an “electric” flavor profile. Other inspirations were from Lady Gaga, thrilled when he “learned she’s a big fan of my desserts”, Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs in “5th Element”, in the rainbow of macarons, each hue and floral flavor dedicated to and named after a loved one or a special person very close to his heart; Meme, Janet, Frankie, Handi, Melissa, Chloe, Lucy, Ken and Rebecca among them.

Says Pura, “My late father’s favorite flower was the rose. He always encouraged me to pursue my sweet dreams, so I wanted to put the rose as the focal point of the logo in his memory.” Now if that doesn’t melt your heart and want to just hug him! Rooted and grounded he continues, “The glass-blown-vase chandelier was made especially for me by a very close friend.”

Cake Me Home Tonight

The prevalent color, in the pink family, akin to a stolen-kiss-tickled-silly in a fabulous fuschia has been said to stimulate the sweet tooth, so senses and weak knees be warned. Surrender you will, and be defenseless to the feelings summoned when presented with the offerings; sweets and savory breakfast, in this Parisienne-inspired pastry shop where the delights beg to “Cake Me Home Tonight” – a quote repeated from their playful packaging.

Be there – at Macy’s Union Square

The first 100 guests to walk through the doors of TOUT SWEET today ( September 8 ) will receive a special gift from Yigit himself. Store hours will be Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 9 pm and Sundays 10 am to 7 pm. Located at Macy’s Union Square, 3rd floor in San Francisco. For up-to-date information visit www.toutsweetsf.com.

While in the Hotel and Rest Admin program of the Univ of the Philippines, Karina Calayag attended many courses in food and beverages, and notable among them were courses in Wine Appreciation. She continued her undergraduate studies at Notre Dame de Namur University in two more broad-based majors: Business Administration and Economics, and ultimately earned her MBA from Golden Gate University. She is married with two beautiful daughters, choosing to raise her family after graduation rather than pursuing the professional opportunities offered to her, and thus she rightly earned the title “Domestic Goddess”. She currently resides on the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay Area. An avid skier, diver and driver (to her kids), an occasional model and full time ROLE model. She loves the Bay Area but she is often visiting in New York, primarily because it’s where her sister lives, though over the years she’s found NY more and more endearing. She found her heart captivated by New York City’s energy and vibrance, convergence of both old and new, food and fashion central, all the arts and culture. Now that her children are getting older, she is setting her sights on traveling to more distant shores, more adventures and possibly pursuing her own passions.