Annaleisa Scigliano, Sugar Queen
Annaleisa Scigliano is almost 20,000 km away right now, in Shanghai. She’s eating her way through the most populous and, arguably, most culturally influential city in China with Bee Choo Char, the Chef at the Prince George Hotel where Annaleisa has worked for almost 10 years.
“We are so excited. It just rejuventates the creativity within us,” she writes me. “We already have ideas for Gio when we get back.”
Annaleisa started out as a humble cook. After some training at the NSCC, she has been a pastry chef ever since. Anybody who has had dessert at Gio under her reign, will understand when I say that she lives up to the name Sugar Queen, which is the name of her company. You may be familiar with her wares if you have purchased the beautiful pastel box of macarons she makes and sells at Pete’s Frootique.
Annaleisa’s education in pastry is impressive. She has studied at Chicago’s French Pastry School in chicago, where master pastry chefs like Chefs Jacquy Pfieffer, Sébastien Canonne, and Pierre Hermé have taught students that have gone on to work at prestigious restaurants like Joel Robuchon and TRU. “I took a demonstration course that was held by Pierre Hermé—that is when I knew macaron were delicious and I needed to make them to Halifax. A few people make them now, but I don’t think the public fully understand how delicious they really are.”
Earlier this year a lot of food media was touting the macaron as the next great food trend, perhaps eclipsing the cupcake, which has had a pretty tight grip on the dessert world over the past few years. Susie’s Shortbreads rode that trend and have become a local success story with their addictive buttercream frosting and decadent flavours. “Cupcakes are a great trend because they are miniature,” Annaleisa says. “Everybody likes anything miniature! They are so versatile, you can do whatever you want to them. I read that this is the year for macaron…I definitely hope so!!”
While the macaron has been showcased in blogs, food magazines and even television shows like Gossip Girl, the little pastel treats haven’t really seemed to catch on in Halifax. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any definable dessert trends in town, chic or otherwise.
“I really feel that Halifax needs some dessert trends,” she writes. “I do what inspires me for desserts… I’ve walked to my own drum and I feel that I have stayed true to the type of food that I like to do whether it is a trend or not.”
“In my opinion, the dessert scene needs more pastry chefs—more pastry postions. I know that it is expensive and the labour that is involved, but it is so worth it! As for what I have been making a lot lately— the Peel me like a Banana.” This is a staple dessert at Gio. During my last trip to the restaurant, my server recommended the dessert as hands down the best thing on the menu. It was, in a word, sublime.
“It is flying off the shelf,” Annaleisa writes. “I have never repeated a dessert in Gio in 8 years and the wait staff told me not to take it off the menu…I trust them so I left it on.”
While Annaleisa has created a singular craze, she has also created her own trend—a trend of excellence. And that shows even in the treats she makes on her downtime. “I love to make layered desserts…desserts with little suprises on the inside. High end desserts! AND MACARON!”