Postcard: Dinner With Jacques Torres

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Gabriella Gershenson

The other night I received an unexpected call from the pastry chef Jacques Torres, perhaps better known as Mr. Chocolate. It's last minute, he said, but would I come to a small dinner he's hosting at his factory on Hudson Street? An intimate dinner with friends means one thing to you and me, but for Torres, it's something different entirely. When I arrived, the first person I spied was Andre Soltner, the legendary chef-owner of Lutece, peeling fennel bulbs and carrots in the vast warehouse space. And there was Sottha Khun, who was chef of Le Cirque while Torres was pastry chef there, darting in and out of other kitchen-related tasks. Dinner that night would consist of Torres's two non-chocolate specialties—a pan of seafood paella the size of a satellite dish (pictured), and an equally large striped bass that Torres, an avid fisherman, caught himself near New York's Verrazano bridge and then baked en croute. The evening ended with the popping of champagne corks, thick slices of praline mille feuille made by Torres's mentor, Louis Franchain, who was visiting from France, and a tasting of Torres's holiday chocolates, a box of sparkling, vividly colored baubles that left our lips covered in glitter. —Gabriella Gershenson