Pastry Chef of the Year
Chef Cher Harris, CEPC, Executive Pastry Chef at The Hotel Hershey, Awarded Gold Medal by the American Culinary Federation
I’m so proud to have represented the Northeast Region, as we haven’t won the national title in quite some time. It’s a very important accomplishment and I’ve had so many strong mentors throughout my career from the ACF.
Chef Cher Harris, CEPC, executive pastry chef at The Hotel Hershey, has been named Pastry Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) at the “Cook. Craft. Create. Convention & Show” in Phoenix. Earlier this year, she was named Northeast Region Pastry Chef of the Year, which qualified her for the national competition. Not only did she win the national title, she was also awarded a gold medal, based on a points system developed by the ACF. At the regional competition, she was awarded the highest gold medal, which means she scored the highest out of every competitor – pastry or otherwise.
The ACF Pastry Chef of the Year award recognizes a pastry chef who displays a passion for the craft, has an accomplished reputation in the pastry field and has helped educate others by sharing skills and knowledge.
“I’m so proud to have represented the Northeast Region, as we haven’t won the national title in quite some time,” said Chef Cher Harris. “It’s a very important accomplishment and I’ve had so many strong mentors throughout my career from the ACF.”
What was the challenge?
For the national competition, Harris had three tasks to complete within two and a half hours: a chocolate centerpiece tied to the theme of Southwest Native American; four each of a plated dessert utilizing prickly pear, pine nuts and honey; and 24 signature cookies. The competition took place on Monday, July 18 and suspense was high as the winner was not announced until the evening of Tuesday, July 19. Harris and her apprentice Emily Holtz (a former extern at The Hotel Hershey) had a lot of time to reflect during the waiting period.
When I asked if the atmosphere was like cooking shows we see on TV, Harris said there are some similarities and differences. “It’s not quite as dramatic as what you see on TV, but the pressure and excitement is definitely present,” she said. “We have a live audience and there is a lot of cheering and support. But if something would go wrong, there is assistance to help bring it all back together.”
How did she prepare?
Harris received the assignment for the national competition in late April. She and Emily took quite a few weeks of planning and research. From there, they practiced weekly for a month and a half until departing for Phoenix. “It was as collaborative effort,” said Harris of the preparation. Practice would coincide with their off days, as they had to remain focused at their full-time jobs as well.
Is there an award this woman can’t win?
Harris isn’t new to the podium. In 2014 she was crowned “The Pastry Queen” at The Ladies’ World Pastry Championship in Rimini, Italy. She helped name the new “Pastry Queen” earlier this year as the two-year title ran its course. Also in 2014, Dessert Professional Magazine recognized her as one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America. To close out the banner year she was selected as a presenter and featured chef at the Powerful Women in Culinary Event in Beijing, China. Including her two gold medals achieved this year, Harris has three gold and two bronze medals from the ACF.
What does The Hotel Hershey think?
The team at The Hotel Hershey couldn’t be more proud to welcome Harris back home. As we were sitting in the lobby of the Hotel discussing her award, staff members welcomed her back with smiles, congratulatory messages and handshakes.
“Chef Cher is an incredible pastry chef who is extremely humble, and we are honored to call her ‘ours,’” said John Daly, food & beverage director at The Hotel Hershey.
“This latest accomplishment by Chef Cher confirms her place as one of the top pastry chefs in the United States,” said Chef Ken Gladysz, CEC, executive chef at The Hotel Hershey. “Just being on our culinary team, Chef Cher raises the level of commitment, drive, passion and professionalism for all of us. With her leadership, we all strive to be the best that we can and to deliver exceptional guest experiences.”
Harris said she’s going to take a little break from competing. However, she can’t stay away for long: “I’m looking at some opportunities, but not in the immediate future.”
As Executive Pastry Chef at The Hotel Hershey, Harris oversees a team of dedicated pastry professionals providing unique desserts and chocolate creations to all of the hotel outlets, including the award winning hotel restaurant, The Circular. The pastry team's desserts are also featured throughout all banquets spaces, the daily Spa buffet, Trevi 5, Harvest, Cocoa Beanery coffeehouse, Sweets shop and more.
About The Hotel Hershey
The Hotel Hershey is a one-of-a-kind resort complete with 276 guest rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting and function space. The 1930s hotel is known for its refined elegance, signature service, and abundant amenities. The Hotel Hershey is situated high atop the town of Hershey and features a Mediterranean design, The Spa At The Hotel Hershey, majestic formal gardens, fountains, reflecting pools and terraces. The property is also a member of Historic Hotels of America. Opened in 1934 by Milton S. Hershey, The Circular is The Hotel Hershey’s flagship restaurant. The Circular serves upscale casual cuisine and innovative cocktails in a unique atmosphere. For more information about The Hotel Hershey or the destination of Hershey, Pennsylvania, visit www.TheHotelHershey.com. Join the conservation by following The Hotel Hershey on Facebook, @TheSweetestPlaceOnEarth on Instagram, and @HersheyPA on Twitter.