Las Vegas is home to many of the world’s most talented pastry chefs, but the Pastry Chef of the Year belongs to the Westgate. Stephen Sullivan won at the 29th-annual U.S. Pastry Competition in New York City earlier this month. He has worked as Westgate’s executive pastry chef for almost three years and has more than two decades of experience in some of the country’s most prestigious hotels.
Winning the championship was the culmination of years of preparation for Sullivan, who has competed only once before, in 2010. “I saw how much I needed to work to get to the level where I could be distinguished,” he says. “So I decided I was going to wait until I was ready to win.”
That doesn’t mean it was easy. There were three components to the competition: a chocolate showpiece, six small “buffet” desserts and a plated dessert.
“I didn’t cut back on anything due to time constraints and I took risks,” says Sullivan, who was mentored through the process by Cosmopolitan executive pastry chef Vincent Pilon. In keeping with the assigned “Great Race” theme, his showpiece was a racetrack complete with chocolate horses and jockeys. “The timing and order of thinking where each piece was going to go was complicated. And the buffet desserts took a very long time to make, because they were pretty much last-minute. I think I slept for an hour and a half the night before.”
Having a culinary champion in the house is significant for the upgraded Westgate. Back when the property was known as the Las Vegas Hilton, pastry legend Stanton Ho held Sullivan’s job.
“He cared so much for this place,” Sullivan says. “What winning means to me is respect, for me and for so many people I’ve taken classes with and people who have showed me skills and dedicated their lives to this industry. And it means a lot [to the Westgate]. I have never gotten this much support, and I’ve worked at some of the best companies in the world.”