Top Chef Season 19 Winner Buddha Lo On Why All Chefs Should Learn Pastry - Exclusive

Anybody who's ever worked in a kitchen knows that there is usually a sharp divide between pastry chefs and savory chefs. As Chron explains, pastry chefs work different hours from their savory counterparts, are often in a separate kitchen, and the two disciplines require distinct sets of skills.

Buddha Lo, the winner of "Top Chef" Season 19, was victorious because of his masterful command of a wide variety of cooking techniques, including pastry. The pumpkin mille-feuille from Buddha's final meal was a winner, as was his dessert from the Episode 4 döppelganger challenge, which ingeniously looked exactly like his partner Jackson Kalb's savory dish (via Gold Derby). Lo's fluency with desserts also definitely gave him a leg up in the competition.

Lo sat down with Mashed for an exclusive interview to talk about his time on the show. He weighed in on the pastry-savory divide and discussed why, in his view, there's no excuse for any savory chef not to learn basic dessert techniques. In his words, "If you enjoy cooking, then you should be doing pastry as well."

Why pastry skills are important for savory chefs to learn

"Top Chef" asks its contestants to cook desserts frequently, so it's important for chefs who want to win the show to learn about pastry, even though they're mostly savory chefs. As Lo put it, "It's not only a fine dining cooking competition. It's everything. It's baking, it's desserts. If you don't know how to make a dessert, don't go on the show." In fact, several of his competitors lost because of bad desserts, said Lo: "Robert's panna cotta was too thin [in the döppelganger challenge]. Evelyn's panna cotta was too firm [in the finale]."

Lo said that, while learning dessert recipes is important, a chef can make it through with a relatively limited repertoire. "If you learn a cake and an ice cream, a custard sauce and a gel and coulis, it is still under 10 things." Once you've mastered those recipes, you can flavor them and combine them in different ways to make desserts throughout the competition, he added.

According to Lo, savory chefs should learn at least the basics of pastry work even if they're not trying to win a TV cooking competition. In his mind, having a broad knowledge base is essential if you want to be the best chef you can be. He said, "If I have two executive chefs applying for an amazing job, the high-paying dream job of their life, and then I look at two résumés and one says, 'Savory, that's all I know,' and the other says, 'Savory, and I can also do pastry.' Who am I going to hire? It's quite simple." He pointed out that many pastry skills, such as whipping cream and making tart shells, can be useful in the context of savory dishes, too.

"Top Chef" Season 19 is now available to watch on Peacock, and you can keep up with Buddha Lo on Instagram.