Rising Star Pastry Chef Rick Billings of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon - Biography
New York, NY
Like most chefs, Rick Billings’s entrée into the kitchen began with a job washing dishes as a teenager. Billings graduated from New England Culinary Institute in Vermont; his favorite course, strangely, was “Meat Fabrication,” and his least favorite was pastry. He was turned off by the display case desserts, with their diagrams of assembly and pounds of buttercream. So he started off down the savory route, working at L' Espalier in Boston, and then under Jonathan Perno at the Metropolitan in his home state of Utah. It wasn’t until a second East Coast jaunt – which this time took him to Boston’s No.9 Park – that he found pastry’s appeal. Under ’s pastry chef Kristen Murray, Billings was exposed to a working environment where the savory walk-in was fair game. It was here that he was introduced to the concept of including ingredients like sweet peas, tobacco, mead, and parmesan in pastry. This philosophy was solidified after meeting the then-pastry chef of Clio, Alex Stupak (then of wd~50, New York), who made Billings’ images of sad buttercream cakes a thing of the past.
Billings spent formative years under Stupak’s tutelage at Clio, ultimately taking on the title of pastry chef for himself. Chef Ken Oringer’s open-minded, progressive cuisine and creative techniques allowed for endless experimentation, and when Stupak left town, Billings picked up the mantle of the city’s most out-of-the-box pastry chef. Billings moved to New York City for the pastry chef position at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, where he made it his professional dictum to think outside the box, but in different ways. At L’Atelier, billings learned to fuse his creative side with “cuisine naturelle,” or additive-free natural cuisine, and so doing, pushing his creative boundaries even further. In 2006, Billings was named a StarChefs.com Rising Star Pastry Chef.