WALLA WALLA — If you got a chance to taste Troy Tipton’s elaborate cocoa bean confections at last weekend’s Lillie Rice Center benefit Chocolate Festival, you know his work is scrumptious.
But if you also got to view Tipton’s elaborate “Production of Chocolate” showpiece, then what you experienced was likely a downright treat.
Tipton, who won his category in the annual chocolate event and fundraiser last Saturday, has been honing his skills with decadent desserts as pastry chef at downtown restaurant T. Maccarone’s for the last year.
A baker for nine years, he describes his evolution as “what happens when a cake decorator becomes a pastry chef.”
For at least two days he crafted his piece, a series of ornate chocolate gears held together as an industrial-looking sculpture to represent the making of chocolate.
In the center of the gears: a sculpted human heart dyed red.
At the base: yellow and red cocoa beans for guests filling their boxes with their allotted chocolate treasures from the event.
He took a break for a Skype interview Friday with the Food Network on the possibility of his becoming a contestant on “Cut Throat.”
The interview was a bust, he said.
Between work and what amounted to naps, he awoke at 4 a.m. Saturday to finish his piece, which broke as he transported it to the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center and had to be returned to the kitchen at T. Maccarone’s for repair.
For Tipton, the piece might have been one of his most literal creations.
Diners ordering from the dessert menu at T. Maccarone’s may not realize when they order desserts such as “The Raven,” “Gonzo,” or “The Angry Orange” just how much thought has gone into them.
Almost every dessert he develops on the changing monthly menus has an underlying inspiration.
A carrot cake with cream cheese mousse, topped with mango, passionfruit and a bit of cilantro syrup and served with dragonfruit sorbet, for instance, was inspired by “The Lorax.”
Created during National Book Month, the dessert was inspired by Dr. Suess.
“That’s one person I actually look up to,” Tipton explained. “He was able to speak his mind and keep his creativity.”
Tipton’s “The Old PB&J” incorporates mousses and jellies with sweet brioche bread in a twist on a childhood favorite.
“I like for people when they eat my desserts to kind of get a sense of who I am but also think back to when they were kids,” he said.
Last October he introduced Halloween for adults through his desserts by filling chocolate bowls with sophisticated treats: caramel corn, streusel, macaroons and more.
Tipton’s work is developing a following on social media, which is how the Food Network has stumbled upon him more than once, he said.
If you’d asked him years ago, when his first job opened the door to his career, Tipton most likely would never have envisioned himself in this role.
He took a night job as a doughnut fryer as a way to occupy his insomnia. Initially he hated it. But eventually the process clicked.
He moved on to breads and cakes, becoming a journeyman baker and cake decorator and studying at culinary school.
He’d previously lived in Walla Walla but returned to the area about a year ago from California. The position at T. Maccarone’s opened.
Tipton’s rotating dessert menus typically include at least one tropical fruit dessert per month. His favorite combinations are tropical fruits with chocolate.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I’m never satisfied. What constantly goes through my mind is what’s next?”
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8321.