Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
- 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, DC, 20007, USA
Executive Pastry Chef
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2022
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Hard Rock Hotel, New York; Fairmont Washington, DC Georgetown; Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco; Hotel Fairmont Empress, Victoria, Canada; Grand Hyatt Muscat, Oman
- Diploma, Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Mumbai
- Mumbai, India
- Hindi, English, operational French and Spanish
Flavours and textures are just the start of what Ashish Thalakkat fashions for final courses on the dining scene at Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC. “Wherever I’ve worked, I’ve always had certain standards and expectations to deliver on, and here those are about creating pastries that give guests a real feel for our identity and location,” he says of his role as Executive Pastry Chef. “Being in pastry in DC means speaking the language of the city through our creations. Simple chocolates just wouldn’t be enough.”
There is a lot on Thalakkat’s dessert plate at the Hotel, with pastry menus and bakery items designed for the signature Michael Mina dining experience Bourbon Steak and the power breakfast spot Seasons, renowned locally for Sunday brunches with a live dessert station featuring dozens of pastries that change monthly. He also oversees sweet treats for in-room dining, banqueting for business and social occasions – especially weddings – in 23,000 square feet of event space, healthy pastries for the Spa, and no end of amenities – bite-sized and beyond – for creating special guest moments.
Key to the creativity that Thalakkat brings to all of the above is his understanding of the Hotel’s vision, which he elevates along with his own. He sums up his style as “doing things tastefully and beautifully,” and he stresses the importance of thoughtful garnishes and other flourishes so that “everything makes sense when you bite into it.”
Thalakkat’s language of pastry speaks to his team as well to guests. He likes to work with people individually, gauging their skill sets and discovering what past experiences they bring to the pastry kitchen. “I’ve learned not to try to bend people my way too quickly,” he says, noting that the training he provides is to further careers. “I love to teach because we all love what we do. We’ll go over tastes, flavours, textures, moistures, and garnishes together. It’s always better for me to work with people than tell them how to do things.”
Teaching the team is one thing; leading it is another. Thalakkat wears his position like a beacon, running things “from the front” to show everyone that while pastry can be demanding, it doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s all about prioritizing and doing things the Four Seasons way, he explains. “If there is a kid checking in on his birthday, and we have to make a cake, it’s far less stressful when you understand that turning moments into memories with an amazing dessert is what we’re all about.”
Mumbain by birth, Thalakkat hails from a family of doctors and engineers. He started off studying to become one of the former until a friend with a hotel career told him about “all the cool stuff” pastry teams do. Inspired to look into it, he liked what he saw.
“My biggest plus is that I come from a science background, and the precision that is required for pastry just fascinated me,” he remembers, adding that he went on to teach advanced bakery courses at the college level. “Unlike a lot of pastry chefs, I never came to my positions with a thousand recipes ready to go. At hotels, I wouldn’t even open the recipe book, preferring to create my own.”
That takes knowing how every ingredient and element of the pastry process will react with the next. It also takes a lot work, which Thalakkat relished doing on his own. “I’d pick a single ingredient – say, sugar or chocolate or honey – and spend a couple months reading about it, analysing its molecule structure, learning to alter it.” His scientific and creative bents didn’t always go over well with employers, he admits. “It could be frowned upon, as they often thought of me as just ‘a cook’ until I made my mark.”
Meantime, Thalakkat has made his mark far and wide, working for international luxury hotel groups from Muscat, Oman, to Victoria, Canada, San Francisco to Washington, DC, and eventually New York City, where he did a brief turn as an Executive Sous Chef before joining Four Seasons.
Wherever his career taken him, he has always been is secure in the knowledge that he is making people happy. “It’s amazing the plates crowded with pastries I’ll see at brunch at Seasons. If there was ever any doubt, I can assure you: People still love dessert.”