In the past, The Roosevelt Hotel (130 Roosevelt Way; 504-648-1200; www.therooseveltneworleans.com) was known more for its Sazeracs than its desserts. However, after taking home the prize from Gambit's For the Love of Sweets Challenge, that may change.
The Roosevelt Hotel's Szechuan strawberry mascarpone cheesecake won over tasters at the inaugural dessert competition, hosted by The Shops at Canal Place in January.
"One thing that helped was that I had one of the lightest desserts," says head pastry chef Deborah Heyd. "A lot of people went with chocolate, and there was a lot of chocolate and no water. ... We did a shortbread crust with toasted almonds, and the strawberry compote was a little sugar, a little salt and fresh-ground Szechuan peppercorn."
Though Heyd was "shocked" to hear that she and her team won the competition, she soon realized their dessert deserved it.
"Once everything was over, I tasted it again and was like, 'This was a winner,'" says Heyd, who was excited to compete in the event. "It's nice to have a local [dessert competition] for pastry chefs, because there isn't anything."
Heyd handles all things sweet in The Roosevelt Hotel, including the freshly baked pastries, beignets, cookies, ice creams and muffins at coffee shop Teddy's Cafe. There are seasonal items, like almond honey thyme king cake during Carnival season, as well as standbys like chocolate chip cookies and eclairs.
Though the cafe's customers are mostly tourists, Heyd says locals also visit the historic hotel, especially during the holiday season. "[In] December, it's all locals," Heyd says. "[We host] holiday parties, weddings, Teddy Bear teas. ... I'd say the rest of the year it's all tourists."
After winning the For the Love of Sweets Challenge, Heyd expects to see more locals.
"Word-of-mouth is the biggest thing, and I think the challenge will really help out with that, because we'll have that dessert in here, too," Heyd says.
In the future, regulars might notice changes at Teddy's Cafe. In addition to being rebranded and redesigned, it will feature a new menu with healthier fare.
"It's going to be a big mix of pastries and sandwiches and a lot more healthy items too," Heyd says. "Gluten-free, vegan ... all that is so big now, and I don't think it's going to go away. We're going to try to gear more toward that."
Heyd also will debut New Orleans-themed pastries.
"I'm going to use a bunch of New Orleans themes and try to create desserts around that," Heyd says. "I'm using different names: CBD, Crescent City Connection. ... We make all of the ice cream and desserts in-house. We try to keep it local."