While many 23-year-olds are embarking on a climb up the corporate ladder (or are, perhaps, still adjusting to life off-campus) chef Nathan Kibarian has achieved something remarkable. He is heading the pastry program at Bastille Kitchen, the contemporary French bistro in Boston’s Innovation District. “I’m kind of surprised myself,” says Kibarian.
Though it came sooner than expected, running a pastry kitchen was always his goal. “I had the idea around the fourth grade,” says the pastry chef, who grew up in Quincy, and applied to Johnson & Wales at 18. “It just kind of snowballed from there,” he says. He did a three-month stint studying pastry in France at the Ecole National Superieure de Patisserie, and graduated summa cum laude from Johnson & Wales with a B.S. in baking and pastry arts. He began his post at Bastille Kitchen earlier this month.
Impressive credentials aside, Kibarian credits his Armenian-American family for fostering his interest in food. “I’m a first-generation American,” say Kibarian. “My grandparents lived next door and there were always family dinners, and everything was homemade, the desserts were homemade,” he says. “Armenian flavors are natural, and home-style, with lots of fresh ingredients.” All that inspires the way he cooks now.
“I want to put things [on the menu] that are approachable to a lot of people, especially flavor-wise. I’m not a big fan of molecular gastronomy, and all of those trends. I like to focus on more traditional flavors and just present them in a more modern style,” says the pastry chef. “I don’t want people to be completely confused about what they are eating.”
A couple of classics he is currently working on: a raspberry napoleon with sea-salted cocoa biscuits sandwiching a dark chocolate cream, set on a swipe of raspberry marmalade; and an apple tarte tatin made with a whole bourbon-poached apple and caramelized puff pastry (top).
Kibarian believes diners prefer a straight-forward approach to dessert. “If it’s an apple tartin, when it’s put in front of them, they know exactly what it is. But it still looks interesting, it still looks beautiful on the plate, and it still tastes just as delicious.” Bastille Kitchen, 49 Melcher St., Boston, 617- 556-8000, www.bastillekitchen.net