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Chef David Benton: Baking’s Hidden Gem

by  Luna Raven on October 29, 2010
Chef David Benton: Baking’s Hidden Gem

For someone who has been cooking his whole life, it is kind of funny that David Benton didn’t spend every waking minute planning to be a chef. Of all the things he loved growing up, being a chef was actually the very last thought in his mind.

When he decided to pursue a culinary degree, Benton was surprised to discover that he was actually following in the footsteps of various family members, thereby tapping into a personal history previously unknown. At the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, Benton discovered a passion that would eventually lead him to a whole new career; he really liked pastry.

After working in the industry at such well known spots as Americano in San Francisco and Masse’s Pastries in Berkeley, he decided that working in restaurants was not quite what he had imagined. Feeling as though school had not wholly prepared him for real world kitchens, he decided to take on a more mainstream job.

After his job downsized, Benton recognized he had the chance to fully pursue the passion he had been sidelining.  Though he had studied the full culinary program, when the opportunity to strike out on his own arose, Benton chose to pursue the pastry side of the field. Why pastry? The artistry, the colors and the ability to make things pretty. “It's challenging. Baking to me is always a work in progress.”

Sitting down with Benton to talk sweets is akin to opening a treat box that turns out to be fuller, brighter and tastier than you had dared to imagine. Ideas flow from him as he talks joyously about his company Sugar Sweets SF and all that lies ahead. He has got big plans for the future.

Benton loves to scout the Web for fresh ideas and is always on the lookout for the unexpected. Honing his decorating skills with videos and inspired by decorating luminary Sylvia Weinstock, Benton’s creations have a retro style with a modern flair. His specialty is desserts in the French fashion with a twist and some good old-fashioned Southern elements thrown in.

His obsession is confections that are both gorgeous and flavorful. Playing with flavor is a favorite activity and has given birth to such treats as Tomato Soup Cake with vanilla and rum. A trip to his Web site shows an eye for colorful, unusual treats with a fun and sometimes nostalgic finish; spun sugar, candy and chocolate butterflies have all graced his creations.

Even as his business grows, Benton is always looking forward. His focus is high quality in all aspects and on learning more about all facets of the business with the hopes of having his own high-end bakery one day. Benton dreams of a dazzling storefront, one that would be fun, funky and inviting.

One could just as easily picture him being a designer to the stars, his collections filled with vibrant colors and sassy styles.  Lucky for us, he chose pastry instead.

Below is one of Benton’s show stopping recipes for the holidays.  Enjoy!

Chef David Benton’s Holiday Buttermilk Bean Tart


1 stick of butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1cup flour

Melt butter and combine the of the ingredients together. Add butter to the flour mixture. Dough should be soft and moist. Press in the bottom of a 9" tart tin and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

1 8oz. can of white beans
2 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon flour

Drain and rinse beans. Cook beans over heat until boiling. Drain beans and place in food processor, add salt and butter. Pour beans into mixing bowl and add spices and flour. In a separate bowl beat yolks, sugar, brown sugar, buttermilk and vanilla.  Add to egg mixture. Take egg whites and beat until stiff adding ¼ cup of sugar to them. Fold meringue into bean mixture. Pour into pie crust and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Luna Raven

Luna Raven

Chef Seletta “Luna” Raven is the host of Chef Luna’s Kitchen Magic, an exciting new radio show that offers chefs, artisan foods and beverage creators to reach a grander audience. full bio


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