The Club at Longview’s new, comprehensive pastry program is rooted in innovation, quality and member preference.
Justin Fry can make almost anything out of chocolate. A table? Sure. A vase? Absolutely. An elaborate buffet that would ultimately land him a job at one of the best clubs in Charlotte? You bet.
Fry is the newly appointed and first-ever Executive Pastry Chef of The Club at Longview in Weddington, N.C. He came on board in January after nearly six years as the Chef Chocolatier of Norman Love Confections in Fort Myers, Fla., where he won numerous awards, including the coveted title of Pastry Chef of the Year at Paris Gourmet’s U.S. Pastry Competition.
But after half a decade working only with chocolate, Fry was ready for something—and somewhere—new.
“I’ve always pictured myself working in a club, because of the variety,” says Fry, who was visiting family in Charlotte last September when Longview’s Executive Chef Charles Gardiner, CEC, invited him to create a chocolate buffet for a club event.
“The members had never seen anything like it before, and their reaction was overwhelmingly positive,” Fry recalls about his initial exposure to the club, and of the members to him. “I knew then that this was a place where I could grow beyond what I had been doing, and create some really cool things for a membership that would appreciate it and get excited about it.”
In his first six months at Longview, Fry has turned his attention to building a pastry-program infrastructure while simultaneously delighting members with an array of both high-end and classic desserts.
“My focus has been on creating desserts that members may not have ever seen or tasted before, while also offering really great-quality classic desserts that are super-satisfying,” he says.
One of the rising stars in his developing dessert repertoire are his petits gateaux et glaçage. These mousse-based cakes are comprised of a multitude of layers, textures and flavors. And they’re covered in a very shiny glaze.
“For my eye, big slices of cake are messy,” says Fry. “They don’t make for good conversation and they’re difficult to serve and eat. When members are enjoying dessert, I don’t want them to have to think about how to eat it. I want them to be wowed by the presentation and the flavor.”
For Valentine’s Day, Fry created a petits gateaux with dark and milk-chocolate mousse, fresh raspberries and a raspberry cream, as well as a vanilla sable cookie. The heart garnish was made of chocolate, and the cake was coated in a shiny red glaçage (see photo, above).
Other desserts making waves with members are similarly individualized. Key lime pie and strawberry cheesecake, for example, are each served in mason jars, while a variety of bonbons deliver big flavor in small bites.
“Bark—something so simple—is selling so well,” says Fry. “It’s just chocolate, dried fruit, and toasted nuts. It’s a very accessible recipe for clubs without pastry chefs, too. Our members are going crazy over it.”
Going forward, Fry has big dreams for Longview’s pastry operation. He’s inspired by the members’ reaction to his work thus far, and is excited about the future.
“I will continue to test the waters with members to see what they like and don’t like,” he says. “This program is all about them. We’re going to be offering more house-made cakes for parties and events, and more grab-and-go pastry like cookies—and we’re planning to begin our own ice cream program soon.”