From creating custom chocolate illusions for corporate guests to ensuring Wynn’s pain au chocolat is consistently faultless, chef Patrice Caillot plays one of the sweetest roles at Wynn Las Vegas.
Assistant Executive Pastry Chef Jeremy Vitou assists Caillot.
TO WATCH EXECUTIVE PASTRY CHEF PATRICE CAILLOT OVERSEE HIS PASTRY SHOP AT WYNN LAS VEGAS is to observe a maestro directing an orchestra in a finely tuned performance. The diminutive chef conducts his team of 75 seamlessly—moving in quick bursts from the pastry shop’s Danish room to its chocolate enrobing station to ensure every croissant, brioche and piece of chocolate will deliver a harmonious experience worthy of the most studied connoisseur.
Chef Caillot swoops into the shop’s chocolate enrobing area to inspect a special dessert his team is making for a Star Stainless Screw corporate dinner. The dessert, composed of painstakingly created screws, nuts and bolts, is made with the finest Belgian chocolate sprayed silver for a stainless-steel effect. Satisfied with its progress, he leaves the sweet scent of chocolate and zips over to a room where the fragrant smell of yeast hangs in the air. He watches as his team takes long strips of fresh dough and methodically shapes each with the palms of their hands into a perfect roll, to be placed in a uniform row among its counterparts.
Speaking English with an accent dipped in French, Caillot directs one of his sous chefs to bring me a chocolate croissant the size of a grapefruit. He insists I have a taste of the signature item for which he is best known. “That’s for sure something when they come here. [Guests] always say, ‘Oh, the croissants, they are the best,’” he relays. The secret is the butter imported from the Brittany region of France, he adds, nodding to giant slabs of bright yellow butter stacked on the corner of a butcher-block table where dough is being fastidiously massaged into rolls.
He has over 35 years of experience in iconic restaurants from southern France to New York, where he spent years refining his craft. His pastry career began with a three-year apprenticeship in France at the age of 14 that included lessons in chocolate, pastry, ice cream and candy-making. “When I arrived in Mr. Remillet’s pastry shop, he told me, ‘I am going to teach you something today, and if you learn how to make it, I will teach you something else tomorrow.’ For me it was like—” Caillot pauses to snap his fingers as he emphatically says, “Boom. I learned to glaze a strawberry tart, and once I mastered that I was shown something else. It was like that every day. Mr. Remillet was a great mentor because he took the time to teach me. The guy was tough. He changed my life a little bit, this guy.”
A trio of Caillot’s specialty desserts: pumpkin cheesecake glass; lemon and raspberry tart; exotic passion fruit pop.
Remillet’s demanding apprenticeship set Caillot on a trajectory that would lead him to stints in the mid-1990s that included Sirio Maccioni’s Osteria del Circo in New York City followed by opening Le Cirque and Osteria del Circo at Steve Wynn’s Bellagio in 1998, and eventually back to New York.
As for returning to work for Steve Wynn 16 years later, Caillot says, “It took me two seconds to make that decision. I always said if we come back, it has to be for something good. For me, coming back to Wynn was a no-brainer.”
Appreciating Wynn’s exacting standards and demand for quality, the 2003 National Pastry Championship and 2004 World Pastry Championship winner jumped at the chance to work at his resorts again. “On the Strip they put the banquet and buffet as second tier, but at Wynn everything is on the first tier. We are the only hotel on the Strip to make all the croissants and Danish from scratch, and we make it by hand. There’s the same expectation whether we make it for a banquet or one of the fine-dining restaurants,” explains Caillot.
Before returning to Wynn in August 2016, Caillot spent three years teaching at The French Pastry School in Chicago. “It was good because I returned to the basics,” says Caillot. “At school we teach [students] by hand because it’s one thing to read the recipe or go online and see somebody do it, but it’s another thing to make it, to touch it, to feel it. When making croissants or brioche, I’m going to teach you how to feel the dough, and that’s muscle memory— it’s like riding a bicycle; you learn and you know how to do it 20 years later.”
Caillot’s experience in Chicago will come in handy this holiday season when he teaches an intermediate Chocolate Master Class to Wynn guests on Dec. 7. During the two-hour class at Lakeside at Wynn, he will offer instruction on the basics of working with chocolate during a crash course in emulsions, tempering, molding and piping. The French chef also has a Treat Trimming class scheduled for Dec. 16. Edible holiday tree ornaments will be made from chocolate and gingerbread to the delight of those young would-be apprentices (ages 5 and older) interested in creating some taste sensations of their own. Chocolate Master Class, Dec. 7, at 2pm, $125 per person; Treat Trimming Class, Dec. 16, at 2pm, $95 per person. Call 702-770-7070 to register.