Meet Black Hawk’s Premier Pastry Chef, Peter Wimmler, Who’s One Sweet Dude!
Admit it. You’ve always wanted to know what goes on inside the head of a person who spends the day whipping up cakes, pies and pastries as part of the sweetest job on earth. After all, how many people do you know who can’t wait to get to work every day? Isle Black Hawk pastry chef Peter Wimmler is a terrific example of a talented, fun and inventive master craftsman who’s not shy about sharing his story.
Where does it begin? For Chef Wimmler, an oversized sweet tooth may have originated in childhood, but when time came to launch a career, he couldn’t decide between chemistry and cuisine. Fortunately, his taste buds won out and he jumped into a culinary career both feet first. As an apprentice and student, he learned many of the roles kitchen staff play, but in the end, pastry won his heart — a hunch confirmed by the time he trained in Vienna, Austria, an international epicenter of tortes, cakes and luxury desserts. Chef Wimmler’s career was not only shaped by his Vienna days, but he admits that time spent there shaped the core of his personality, too.
Happily, his arrival at Isle Black Hawk marks just the latest move in this award-winning chef’s career. To learn more about him, we posed questions that you might put to him were you lurking around the Black Hawk kitchen with a pen and notepad. The man’s not shy, so if you want more detail about his life’s work, feel free to pose your own when you visit Isle and indulge in his divine dessert dishes in person. Hopefully, his story will whet your appetite for ordering more than one dessert — as a thank you for being such an outstanding chef, of course.
Q. As the head honcho, what’s it like to be at the head of an empire that’s built on sugar and whipped cream?
A. [Laughs]: It’s tasty! We’ve invested a lot of love and resources on new equipment so we can create and serve more desserts than ever before. By expanding our resources, I get to try new things more frequently and there’s more room for our pastry staff to spread out and get inventive. Working in the Isle kitchen has always felt a little like being in heaven—only now, heaven’s bigger!
Q. When Isle guests order your desserts, what can they expect?
A. How much time do you have? Diners are not only attracted to taste — they want artful presentations and playful plates, so I always begin with quality ingredients, a huge library of recipes from around the globe, and then I use artistry to plate each so it’s literally a work of art when it arrives tableside. We really have opportunities to shine on special occasions like Valentine’s Day!
Q. Do you have a signature dish?
A. That’s a hard question to ask a pastry chef. My staff and I like to mix it up — bring together an assortment of textures that are crisp, soft and creamy — but we also like to marry tastes. That said, you can’t include more than three flavors in a dessert or diners won’t know what they’re tasting. It’s like orchestrating a symphony: a delicate balance of flavor, texture and temperature, too. At the moment, I’m working on a new dessert menu for Farradday’s and I might just add a signature dish.
Q. Do you have a favorite dessert?
A. Now, here’s a question I never hesitate to answer immediately: Give me a healthy portion of homemade ice cream or sorbet any day of the week and I’m a happy man.
Q. Famous chefs almost always find inspiration all around them. What inspires you?
A. I’m inspired by my former teachers, my imagination and my job, because I’m allowed so much creative license when I walk into the kitchen to prepare my desserts or develop new recipes. I am also inspired by the people I work with. When I browse magazines or attend food shows and competitions, my mind goes into overdrive! You might say that I find inspiration everywhere and every day.
Q. You mention former teachers. Where did you train and what led you to the culinary world as a profession?
A. As I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t decide whether to become a chemist or learn a trade, but my choice was serendipitous because when I went to school for confectioners, I realized that there are strong similarities between chemistry and cooking. Both require working with chemical reactions so my instincts were correct. My training has taken me around the world: I’ve worked in Bermuda, Thailand, Fiji, Australia, Japan and the Philippines. I was working in Tokyo when I was recruited by Venetian® Resort and Casino in Las Vegas to return to the States. Since then, I’ve also worked in California, Florida and Colorado before coming here.
Q. Is there one thing you are most proud of today?
A. I am proud of my team because they take pride in the job they do and exhibit unabashed joy and passion when they work their magic every day. We set some high standards, yet everyone on staff stays motivated, is always excited to get more training and I’ve never met a group of people who are so professional.
Q. What are your major accomplishments here at Isle?
A. Over the past 10 months things have been moving at the speed of light in our kitchen! We launched a new dessert rotation at our Calypsos® Buffet and introduced new retail pastry items at Tradewinds®. Klaus and I have represented the Isle at culinary events and competitions. We even oversaw dinner events at the governor’s residence. When you start baking for the governor, you know you’ve arrived!