There was a moment, a few months back, when a petite woman with fashionably short-cropped hair and signature boxy librarian glasses just downright astonished her coworkers. She had been working full-time at Los Angeles furniture store, HDButtercup. She had a degree in art, a passion for the work and a deep knowledge of midcentury-modern design. But admittedly, she “kind of sucked at selling.”
After quitting unexpectedly, she gave her coworkers a parting gift: signed copies of a cookbook. “Oh my God,” one of her coworkers said. “This is you? You wrote this?” For two and a half years she had been living undercover, never sharing that she was one of the world’s most renowned chefs, just selling furniture.
Then, Hedy Goldsmith returned to pastries.
A STUDY IN SWEETS
A two-time James Beard finalist, Goldsmith worked in Miami since arriving here in 1990, earning her reputation on the dessert line at Michael Schwartz’s restaurants. In that time, she helped redefine what everybody thought a dessert should be, adding salt and spices and ingredients previously kept out of sweets. One of her iconic items is a popcorn and peanut chocolate bark that’s as much afternoon snack as it is a post-meal indulgence.
For Goldsmith, it wasn’t anything revolutionary — it was just what she had always liked. She grew up in a largely Jewish neighborhood in Philadelphia, and at 6 years old, she tried her first halvah, a sesame paste candy that’s the texture of rich brownies. “It spoke to me,” she recalls. “It actuated every corner of my mouth.”
REDESIGNING A LIFE
In 2015, though, Goldsmith decided she needed a break from the industry. For her many fans, it was hard to watch the departure of a chef who had made the desserts we ate to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, or simply the conclusion of a tough day.
“I burnt out, and I really needed to fall in love with the craft again,” Goldsmith says.
Since her days at the Philadelphia College of Art, Goldsmith had an eye for design, and so she took a job at the furniture store because she wanted to spend her days around things that were beautiful.
Then one day last year, John Kunkel, owner of the 50 Eggs restaurant chain, called her out of nowhere. They had known each other for years and had always talked about collaborating. Kunkel asked Goldsmith if she’d come to work for him at his new Los Angeles restaurant.
“I was like, ‘Sure, I would like to do that,’” Goldsmith recalls. She agreed to a six-month trial as the 50 Eggs corporate pastry chef.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
In addition to L.A., she also flew to Singapore and Las Vegas to establish the desserts at 50 Eggs restaurants there. But she was missing her friends and family back in Miami. So when Kunkel opened Ad Lib, a new restaurant in Coral Gables in February, Goldsmith took over the dessert station.
She says the concept spoke to her. The theme, if you can call it that, is that there’s no concept, just good ingredients plated however the chefs see fit. “It’s like Jerry Seinfeld,” a sitcom about nothing, Goldsmith says. “I mean, it’s a 70-seat restaurant, and so I’m able to have an effect on each person who comes in.”
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Her time in Los Angeles influenced one of the restaurant’s early dessert menu’s more unique dishes, a brown butter semifreddo with a French pound cake flavored with ras el hanout spices.
On the lunch menu, Goldsmith added something lighter, because people don’t want to return to work overstuffed. The lemon tart, which you’ll also find in the recipe here, might sound like a simple dessert. But Goldsmith says she’s been perfecting this recipe for 25 years, working toward a fluffier tart.
“It’s a take on a lemon curd, in a completely different way,” she says. “It’s a lighter, more flavorful, more unctuous curd.” It is original, different and, like Goldsmith, it’s making what is likely to be a triumphant comeback.
Lemon Tart, available at Ad Lib, Coral Gables.
1 cup sugar
Zest of three lemons
4 large eggs
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
2 sticks room-temperature butter cut to½-inch cubes
Fully baked nine-inch tart shell (optional)
1. In a glass bowl, mix sugar and lemon zest. Whisk in eggs and lemon juice, making sure yolks are completely mixed. 2. Place bowl over medium sauce pan filled halfway with simmering water. Whisk mixture until it reaches 175 degrees and becomes thick. 3. Strain mixture through fine chinois or cheesecloth placed in a mesh sieve and cool to 120 degrees. 4. Place in blender and mix at medium speed. Add butter one cube at a time while mixing on high, three to four minutes. 5. Chill mixture overnight in air-tight container. Blend with a paddle until smooth. Pour mixture into tart shell, or to skip the crust, add to a parfait glass, topped with fresh fruit.