Influenced by his mom and grandmothers, cooking interested Ricky early in life. At age 11, he enrolled in cake decorating classes and knew instantly that this was going to be a lifelong passion. He worked his way up from bakery apprentice to Executive Pastry Chef, eventually becoming a Corporate Executive Chef at several posh hotels. As his skills and confidence blossomed, his creativity took flight, even fulfilling a lifelong dream of building a life-sized Gingerbread House! By day, Ricky works as a chef consultant, helping restaurateurs develop best practices. But, his whimsical culinary style and community involvement has made Ricky a local celebrity in Washington state where he lives with his partner Andrew and two adopted rescue dogs, Ponzu and Gandalf. Follow Ricky on Instagram.
Q&A with Ricky
When did you start baking, and why?
I started baking with my Mom as early as I can remember. She loved making cakes and cookies for family and was always encouraging to let me jump in and help her. This was only heightened by a grandmother who would make a birthday cake for me every year until I was about 9 or 10. I didn’t want it to end so at 11, I asked my mom to put me though cake decorating classes at the craft store. I’ve been doing it ever since.
What are the specialty ingredients you can’t live without?
I love bright flavors and giving my cookies and pastries a certain pop. Whether it be in the form of finishing salt on top of a cookie, citrus zests mixed into the dough or icing, or strong spices such as ginger or black pepper. I feel like it gives the desserts a memorable quality.
What’s your signature dish?
I try not to repeat too many dishes whether it be sweet or savory, as I’m always trying new methods and flavors. That being said, some of my cookie recipes (chocolate chip, gingerbread, chocolate covered raisin oatmeal) have been w/ me for quite a while and are my go-to’s. I also can be found making my sourdough pancakes every couple weeks, as I have a starter that I have to feed and hate throwing away the discard from it.
Who do you love to bake for?
I love baking and cooking for EVERYONE! There’s a sense of nourishment and “taking care of” that I get when I cook and bake for people. If it’s someone new, I hope to lift them from reality just a bit when they see or taste my creations for the 1st time, and if it’s a friend or family member I hope to evoke a memory or create a new one.
What does holiday baking mean to you?
Baking and the Holidays is what I know. My Mom and I would spend countless hours at the mixer, oven, and stove from about Thanksgiving to New Years. We would make batch after batch of cookies and candies for our friends and family and knew that the gift of our treats would make them smile. The magical thing about this time is that people come together, it just so happens for me it’s about bringing them together over food.
What’s your favorite holiday baking memory?
I have so many! The one that sticks out the most is one of the first years I had been away from my family and friends at the holidays. I was missing baking with my Mom, so I decided I would make a slew of cookies and candies, package and box them up and send them out as care packages for all the people I was missing. My roommates thought I was crazy when I had every inch of counter, fridge and stove loaded with sweets. I think I had 12-15 different items when all was said and done, and you can bet there were plenty of smiles that holiday season, especially mine.