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Jennifer Jones: Pastry chef of the year
The first time Jennifer Jones set foot in Frontera Grill, she was a high schooler from Wheaton. These days she visits 445 N. Clark St. with some regularity; for the last three years, the Kendall College graduate and Charlie Trotter's alum has been the pastry chef at Frontera's upscale sibling, Topolobampo. "I have a real respect for Mexican culture and ingredients," she says.
"The challenge is to take those elements and educate people -- for example, utilizing masa in a dessert to showcase just how incredible it is."
This technique takes remarkably creative turns, such as a dragon-fruit meringue stuffed with guanabana espuma; a steamed cake of bittersweet Mexican chocolate with chocolate-wine sorbet and red peanut mole; or a salute to Veracruz via a vanilla crema cake with plantain croquettes, banana-leaf ice cream and dark coffee crumble. 2011 was a great year for desserts in Chicago, but Jones' impressed us the most.
-- Phil Vettel