Congratulations to Las Vegas’ Chris Hanmer, the pastry prince who won the title of America’s Top Dessert Chef and $100,000 that will help pay medical costs from his newborn daughter’s congenital heart defect operation.
Chris, formerly with the Bellagio, creamed Matthew Petersen and Sally Camacho in the final seconds of Bravo’s Season 2 of Top Chef Just Desserts and received a champagne spray from his competitors. Chris, who defeated 14 rivals, is the owner of his School of Pastry Design here.
He is the first local culinary star to win on the dessert competition, and he’s certainly proof that you can have your cake and make it, too: In 2004, he became the youngest American to win the title of World Pastry Champion. Carlos Enriquez, corporate pastry chef for Block 16 Hospitality (Holsteins, Barrymore, LBS Burgers), finished fourth and won the $10,000 Quickfire doughnut challenge this season for his citrus and passion fruit bombolini.
He used his Twitter just minutes after the win: “Thank u all for your support! It’s been an amazing journey. I am honored to have gotten to work with such awesome chefs.” Chris literally taught himself to cook by reading the Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg. He now receives a full layout in Food & Wine. Chris previously won The Food Network Challenge building a bicycle balanced on a tightrope entirely from chocolate.
Season 1 Just Desserts winner was Yigit Pura, who was here in Las Vegas for the MGM Top Chef Food & Wine festival that we reported last week. Neither host Gail Simmons nor Yigit, a San Francisco pastry chef, tipped anybody in advance that Chris was the possible winner. Our Hubert Keller from Fleur at Mandalay Bay was one of the judges who also maintained the code of silence.
Chris will use his winnings to continue to grow his business and pay for medical costs resulting from his daughter’s repaired congenital heart defect. In a post-win interview with TV Guide, he said: “I started my business less than two years ago, so this will bring some stability. You never know what’s going to happen. Having money in the bank is really going to provide for my family in the future.
“Also, having a daughter with a congenital heart defect that has just been repaired, we have a lot of expenses associated with that, so we’re going to use the money to take care of that, as well. … She’s doing fine. She had open-heart surgery three months ago at 3 months old. The surgery was a tremendous success. The surgeon and her cardiologist say that she won’t need to have another surgery, which is a tremendous blessing for parents with children with congenital heart defects.
“I want to continue to build my business, and the second one is I really want to be involved in bringing more awareness to congenital heart defect. It’s very difficult to be a parent and a first-time parent and to have this happen because your world gets rocked pretty hard. I really want to bring awareness to parents that through this opportunity, we can really come together and help each other out.
“I’ve had some tremendous outpouring of support from parents whose children have had three or four surgeries before they’re 3 years old. I really want to use this to bring some hope and some light.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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