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Executive Pastry Chef Sherry Yard has been dubbed the “princess of pastry” by Wolfgang Puck. She’s worked at his restaurant Spago for over 18 years and reflects on her ascent in her Guest DJ set as she prepares to open her own bakery. From Don McLean’s “American Pie” to a song from Pink, which happens to be her signature color, she shares five of her favorites. Sherry created the desserts for this year’s Oscars dinner and has teamed up with Sang Yoon to revive the Helms Bakery this Fall.
1. American Pie - Don McLean
2. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
3. Blasphemous Rumours - Depeche Mode
4. You Gotta Be - Des'ree
5. Just Like a Pill - Pink
Eric J. Lawrence: Hi. I’m Eric J. Lawrence and I am here with renowned pastry chef Sherry Yard. She dazzles the powerful, rich, and famous with her culinary creations at Spago in Beverly Hills, and has shared her secrets to success in two cookbooks. Today we’re going to talk about some songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Sherry thanks for coming down.
Sherry Yard: Thank you so much for having me. This is a total blast.
EJL: So what’s the first song you got for us?
SY: I have Don McLean’s “American Pie”. You know, as a little girl, we would sit around…you know, I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to do other than maybe jump over other people’s fences and, you know, play games as kids. This song came out and we would sit around the radio – the AM radio – and we would sing the songs and try and learn every single, solitary word. And I just thought it was so ironic and perfect that I became a pastry chef and this was one of the first songs I ever learned all the words to.
Song: Don McClean – “American Pie”
EJL: That was the classic from Don McLean, “American Pie”, as selected by our guest Sherry Yard. What’s the next song you got for us?
SY: Well, I guess after having my first introduction of learning the words, what better song after that was “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Scaramouche! Scaramouche! (laughs)
EJL: Do you remember the first time you heard that song?
SY: Same thing! AM radio! KABC New York. It was just so phenomenal. Really it was the first rap song out there, you would think, huh? And what better than Queen. Wolfgang calls me the princess of pastry, so those two together seem so perfect and so much fun. I justt love to have fun.
EJL: You had mentioned Wolfgang Puck, how did your collaboration start?
SY: I got a phone call one night, it was a message on the answering machine, it said “Hi, I’m Wolfgang; you have to call me back”. I called the number, which I thought was fake, and they answered “Spago” and I said “Oh my gosh! It was Wolfgang Puck. What does he want?” I got on a plane two days later and here I’ve been for the last 18 years.
Song: Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody”
EJL: Now we move on to something from the mid-80’s, Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours”.
SY: This song reminds me of New York City. I worked at the Rainbow Room in New York City. It was the most beautiful place and I wanted to work there because the costumes. It was an event to work at this space. The 64th floor overlooking all of Manhattan, art deco, just such a brilliant space. The food - baked Alaskas, the chocolate soufflés - and I said ‘I’m gonna go work at this Rainbow Room, I’m going to become a waitress.’ And son of a gun, the first job they gave me – cigarette girl. So I have a little button hat and high heel shoes and the slit up to my thigh. It was wonderful. Then I got a promotion because of the Surgeon General. No more selling cigarettes in restaurants so they promoted me to cocktail waitress. I’m working there, I look around and I see the pastry chef and I keep saying ‘Oh my gosh, how wonderful this is. It’s like a science and its food. It’s so mysterious – how do they get the soufflé to rise?’ And I made friends with the pastry chef, got stuck in the sugar of Rainbow Room and never left. That was over 25 years ago.
Song: Depeche Mode – “Blasphemous Rumors”
EJL: Music has a lot of different genres and food kind of comes in a lot of different genres and flavors. If pastry was a music genre, what would it be?
SY: Oh that’s a tough question. I always say this at the restaurant, that Chef Wolf and Chef Lee Hector are the orchestra and I come in as the triangle. Really strong at the end. One powerful ding! We finish the meal on the highest note possible.
EJL: That was Depeche Mode with “Blasphemous Rumors” and selected by our guest Sherry Yard. So what’s the next song you’ve got for us?
SY: Well, the next song is really wonderful because it’s from 1994 and it’s by Des’Ree and it’s “You Gotta Be”. It really symbolizes when I decided to leave New York City to come out to California. I really knew no one. I had $200 in my pocket, one duffel bag and a carry-on onto the plane. It was just making a transition and knowing that I needed to come to California to make a difference in my career, that New York was very male driven and I kept reading about California and all the beautiful produce, all the amazing chefs, the women chefs, and how nurturing it was compared to New York City. I said “I just gotta do this” and I just totally broke, I totally broke from everything and everyone I knew and I knew no one. And, hallelujah, I got on the plane and here I am!
EJL: Here it is the song that inspired it.
Song: Des’ree – “You Gotta Be”
EJL: What’s the last song you’ve got for us?
SY: The last song we have is Pink’s “Just Like A Pill”. In one regard the pill being the change and doing different things in your life, but ultimately I love Pink and what she represents as a person and I wear pink, for all of you out there that do not know. I wear pink, it’s not for Barbie, but I wear it for breast cancer and my grandmother passed from it. If I have to wear a chef’s jacket all the time, I want, everything that I wear is pink to remind everyone we can make a difference.
Song: Pink – “Just Like A Pill”
EJL: Did the connection of the color bring you to Pink the artist or was the music something that also spoke to you and it just happened to be a good, happy coincidence.
SY: Yes, the color of course, first. Secondly, I think Pink, as a woman in her field, has worked so hard to express herself and the things that she’s gone through. Not unlike Mary J. Blige, these gals have gone through things that we all can relate to and they’ve come out strong. Checking her out on the MTV awards a couple years back, upside-down, backwards, singing a song. Who does that? No one does that. She’s absolutely amazing and I think she’s a great representative for young women everywhere to stay true to who you are and that’s what I try to do as well.
EJL: Sherry, I want thank you for coming down and sharing some music selections with us.
SY: It’s been my absolute pleasure. It’s been so much fun.
EJL: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through itunes.