Lick the Plate

The sweet side of Valley View Casino & Hotel with Pastry Chef Tina Blanco

“Pastry Chef Tina Blanco from Valley View Casino & Hotel” Photo courtesy Valley View Casino & Hotel
“Pastry Chef Tina Blanco from Valley View Casino & Hotel” Photo courtesy Valley View Casino & Hotel

I’ve had the opportunity over the past year to interview several chef’s from the culinary team at Valley View Casino & Hotel and that enabled me to eat at all of their restaurants.
To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. I’ve had great experiences at all of the restaurants and was amazed at the culinary talent they have in all their kitchens. The pastry team is no exception and I had a conversation recently with Pastry Chef Tina Blanco to learn more about their delicious desserts.

You grew up in Houston and went to culinary school there as well. Tell me about that experience and the famous pastry chef who helped shape your talent.
Texas is rich with hidden diversity and fantastic culinary opportunities. I can say with certainty that my Pastry foundation was established through working with some very passionate minds in Houston. My long time mentor and instructor, Eddy Van Damme was born in Belgium, taught at HCC and went on to coauthor an essential Pastry book entitled On Baking, which is now in its third edition. Above everything, he taught me to stay hungry and to continue to explore trends from around the world as Pastry is constantly evolving.

You had several stops on your road to Valley View, what restaurants along the way were the most influential on you developing your skills?
From working in an organic farm in Texas, I learned seasonality. Vegas taught me organization and mass production. The Four Seasons taught me service and details. It’s hard to credit one or two restaurants as I am constantly being influenced by everything I read and experience and I apply it generously in all I do and create.

You are part of a world-class team of chefs and pastry chefs at Valley View as I’ve interviewed several of them for my KPRI show. What is it like working with such talented culinary talent all gathered in one place?
The talent pool of Chefs here at Valley View is incredibly diverse and rich with experience. Our environment is tailored for personal growth and each Chef contributes and supports each other’s journey. I am personally being challenged and influenced by our Black and Blue Chef, Michael Knowles as we both share a curiosity for molecular gastronomy and modern trends.

The pastry team at Valley View services all the restaurants and the buffet. Tell me about those restaurants and some of the signature desserts that you feature in each.
BLD’S is a casual dining experience where classic flavor profiles take a modern twist.  We feature a banana and peanut butter cake and make house made caramel popcorn to accompany it. We also do a variation on a strawberry shortcake where we incorporate a creamy vanilla panna cotta.  Black & Blue our award winning Steakhouse, which just won most romantic restaurant, has a warm carrot cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and ginger ice cream. It’s a tasty way to eat your vegetables. And of course the Buffet which has over 120 of our fabulous desserts! I would also like to mention Sweets & Scoops that serves deliciously fresh desserts you can grab and enjoy with a good cup of coffee. Our new creations include a lemon blueberry mascarpone charlotte and a honey pecan bar that is equally enjoyable.

Along with the chefs at Black & Blue and BLD’s, you feature seasonal ingredients in your desserts. What are you highlighting in October?
For October, you will be seeing an abundance of fall flavors dominating our menus. Vanilla cheesecake with an apple cranberry compote and brown butter shortbread will be featured as our seasonal cheesecake at Black & Blue. We also incorporate seasonal fruits like figs, pomegranate and red currants in our Sweets & Scoops fruit tarts all month.

This is a tough one given the variety of desserts you create, but are there five that stand out right now as your favorites?
Yes I do! You will find me doing “quality controls” on the following desserts often: Seasonal cheesecake, warm carrot cake at Black & Blue, Dutch apple cheesecake also at Black & Blue, the banana peanut butter cake at BLD’s and the honey pecan bars at Sweets & Scoops.

Check out all the menus at the Valley View Casino & Hotel restaurants at valleyviewcasino.com.

Lick the Plate can now be heard on KPRi, 102.1 FM Monday – Friday during the 7pm hour.  David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at  david@artichoke-creative.com or          (858) 395-6905.