The wedding season is starting to kick into full gear as couples plan for their big day by selecting their venue, table designs, menus and most importantly their wedding cakes and other pastries that will make the day special. When it comes to all things sugar and sweet, who is one person couples should turn to? D.C’s very own Chief of Desserts, executive pastry chef Padua Player, aka Suga Chef, owner of Suga Chef Desserts.
A D.C. native, Player has been wowing the taste buds of clients and celebrities for years with his cakes and pastries that are anything less than creative and delicious. With such a natural talent for filling the biggest sweet tooth, his decadent creations have been enjoyed by clients wanting that over the top pastry experience. In addition, add to his list a host of celebrities that range from Damon Wayans and Pam Grier to Crystal Waters and the late Chuck Brown who have all sunk their teeth into a Suga Chef dessert. This self-professed renegade lets no opportunity pass him by without a chance to hook his next fan.
“People inspire me. What they are eating now. What the fads are, what the trends are,” he shares when asked about the inspiration behind his desserts. And with that, each client, each event and each cause is a motivating force to bake, frost and decorate.
Recently, he worked with different pastry chefs to showcase a variety of wedding cakes in support of marriage equality. He is also using his craft to champion health-related causes such as sickle cell anemia and autism which he says has affected his family.
You can say his pastry career has matured quite nicely since seeing a sign in the window of a restaurant looking for help. The youngest of seven children, Player wasn’t shy about taking on little jobs in the neighborhood while growing up, saying “I always loved to have money in my pocket.” So one day while downtown with his mother, he wandered around the corner to a restaurant, wandered in and was hired as a dishwasher. From there, he worked his way up to doing prep work and then to eventually working with the pastry chef which fueled his desired to work as a pastry chef full-time before going to culinary school at Baltimore International College. There, he would create his edible rendition of Swan Lake for his final practical exam.
Player hasn’t wasted any time fueling his passion with opportunities to grow and strengthen his skills. He has appeared on the third season of the Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” with more TV appearances in the works and one of his wedding cakes was featured on WEtv’s “Platinum Weddings.”
He is currently working on his signature line of extracts and pastries to be released later this year before the holidays. “I love jam cookies so I said why can’t I market my own jam cookies so I want to do jams and spreadable fruits.”
If you are lucky enough to be in the test kitchen where all of the magic is happening, you’ll most likely find Player playing around with sea salt, caramel, citrus, chocolate, ginger, basil, and rosemary. All of which are some of his favorite ingredients to use. And like most pastry chefs, a dessert is not complete without two ingredients; cream and butter. “I think everything is good with cream and butter.”
This year is sure to be a big one for Player who has a pulse on what is hot and what is not. As people and clients continue to be a source of inspiration for him, we’ll continue to be inspired by his passion to create goodies that make life sweeter one dessert at a time. “The most important thing is that you want people to really enjoy what you are doing and you want to get them as excited as you are about what you are doing.”