Updated: Aug 23
It's not just drinks and dessert.
Drink and dessert pairings are by no means a new concept, but Andrew Sutton, a young Swiss and English pastry entrepreneur* is determined to give this innocuous combination its just desserts.
A recent contributor to Annabelle Magazine, Switzerland's top fashion mag, I first got to know Andrew from the striking desserts he posted on Instagram.
Along with images of his daily life and travels, there are soulful sweets and drinks peppered into the mix that make you want to scroll for more. It is as he describes, the elevation of dessert.
There is admittedly a lot of food noise on Instagram but Andrew stood out, foremost for the vivid imagery, then for the complexity and playfulness in the composition of his desserts...and in his personality.
The elevation of dessert.
I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew on a recent trip to London, on an unusually sunny afternoon. The young mixologist and pastry chef trotted up the steps to my hotel, impeccably dressed, seemingly unfazed by the biting chill in the air, ready to meet for a cocktail at the Langham.
He had an air of purpose, a firm handshake, a nice smile, and took the lead on the way to the hotel. As it turns out, his thoughts on dessert were just as deliberate.
For Andrew, dessert is an opportunity to see the many layers of flavor with pastry as the protagonist. He appreciates alchemy, and the harmony that an expertly designed drink can bring to the story he wants to tell.
While he's still developing the format for a stand alone restaurant, his recent collaborations continue to stir his imagination.
But are all the desserts inspired by a drink? Or are the drinks inspired by the dessert?
Andrew says, "Some come from drinks, experiences I’ve had, a feeling I’ve got. The pairing is a new thing, the whole idea. It’s a very emotional place. How you live life. Maybe I like your company, so let’s make some desserts. That was the case with the coffee bean roasters Square Mile. You can really focus if it’s just one ingredient. It was hard to come up something with because coffee and tea are everywhere so I looked at how coffee is, throughout food, what role it plays. I was at dinner with my parents and ate a burnt parsnip and thought, wow it tastes like coffee. It led me to discover one of my best recipes ever, Roasted Parsnip Cream with caramelized apple...I called home right away and said Mum I’ve just made the best dish ever!"
Good looks are not enough.
Even in his early 20's, he has seen enough pretty dishes without any soul (or taste, as he maintains). He wants to bring people back to eating for the sake of flavor, not just for the aesthetic, a stand out trait among many of his peers that seem to be more concerned with image. His dedication to authenticity and the enjoyment of the creative process has led him to question whether restaurant life is really the way to go.
How does the industry need to evolve? Andrew's perspective is part of a raging trend and shared opinion amongst his generation:
"You can’t say one size fits all, I would never work in a restaurant or hotel in London. It’s not a life. It’s pointless, you get paid nothing, you're working with a chef who doesn’t care about you or what you do. Don’t feel like you have to stay in the system. No one is every ready to run a kitchen. A lot of what I do is self-taught, a lot is online, trial and error."
Andrew is loyal to his vision and knows how hard it is to stand out. His advice for young people who want to put themselves out there?
"You’ve got to find something that makes you different. Look at the top 20 restaurants in the world. You’ve really got to be stubborn, even if people say it doesn’t work and tell you it's just desserts, just cocktails.
"...I’m young, but I’m not one to shy away from putting myself out there to be judged."
I do a lot of business on Instagram, maybe 70% and wonder lately what's the point? Glazed cakes, pristine dishes all this aggravates me, they’ve gone purely after style and not taste. The flavor is not always going to be there. Anyone can cook, so push the boundaries not just with the food but with the whole experience. What am I doing now that can educate people later on in the future? You’re never going to know everything, there’s always a right way and a wrong way and there is no rule-book."
But self-taught doesn't mean self-learned as Andrew sees the importance of seeking out the expertise of others. For the drinks, he has a lot of friends who work in bars in London that assist in the more precise side of the mixing.
He says "Like Enrico this Italian guy, he works at Dandelyan Bar at the Mondrian Hotel in London, that is 2nd in the world. We have this connection, it’s about that wow moment. "
Andrew points out that working with conviction is the key to success and is in the end what connects you to other people working at the same level.
"I want to take something simple and humble like dessert and put it into the same bracket as some of the best food that served in the world. It's really a shame, you go for a nice meal but by the end you're too full for dessert, and there's so much more technique that goes into it compared to, say frying a steak. I mean for me, it's like going to an art museum and not seeing the art."
"...it's like going to an art museum and not seeing the art."
He envisions something intimate, playful and personal, without the need for a savory course before.
At the bar, as we settled into our seats, the young pastry protégé carefully pored over the expertly crafted cocktail menu, absorbed by his options. He wore his curiosity on his sleeve, pausing every so often to comment on the type of liquor or blend of unusual flavors that amused him, almost like having seen an old friend.
He admittedly leads with curiosity but doesn't go for weird.
"I would never put a protein in my dish - that’s just too far. I can convince you that you are eating it without it actually being there. I also like weird smells like concrete. When the head of digital for Annabelle magazine asked me to do this article in October, I worked on 6 cocktails, and 5 are in the magazine. Drinks like the Violetta Gimeletta are simple with violet liqueur and a gin from Zurich.
What's next? Taking it a step further.
Andrew says travel is on next on the menu. "I would like to travel around doing pop-ups, work as brand ambassador, move Zurich, to SF, to Hong Kong, you never stop learning."