Any great pastry chef knows that baking is as much an accurate science as it is a creative endeavor. Fortunately, DANIEL Executive Pastry Chef Ghaya F. Oliveira has talent to spare in both areas. Ghaya’s first career was not in the kitchen, but as a stock trader in her native Tunisia, but after moving to the United States in 1998, she chose to pursue creative challenges in the kitchen rather than on the trading floor. Nearly 20 years later, she reached the pinnacle of the pastry profession, winning the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef” in 2017.
Upon graduating from the Culinary Academy and then earning a degree in Restaurant Management from the French Culinary Institute, Ghaya joined Café Boulud in New York in 2001. As a pastry commis, under Executive Pastry Chef Remy Funfrock, Ghaya learned the importance of precision and refined her technique. At Café Boulud, Ghaya was promoted on several occasions, first to Pastry Cook, then to Pastry Sous Chef. She continued to learn from Chef Funfrock, as well as Daniel Boulud’s Corporate Pastry Chef Eric Bertoia. She credits the former with teaching her to cook fruit with delicacy, care and respect for their natural flavors. “I slowly worked my way up,” says Ghaya. “Time didn’t matter because I was so hungry to learn.”
When Chef Daniel Boulud opened Bar Boulud in 2007, he called upon Ghaya to become Executive Pastry Chef. She became responsible for menu development and sourcing ingredients, citing the local farmers’ markets as inspiration. When neighboring Boulud Sud opened in May 2011, Ghaya’s sheer talent and ambition led Boulud to make her the Executive Pastry Chef there, too. At Boulud Sud she debuted her Grapefruit Givré – a whimsical dessert composed of a frozen grapefruit filled with grapefruit sorbet, fresh grapefruit jam, sesame crumble, sesame foam and rose water loukoum, topped with halva ‘hair’– which has received countless press accolades and praises from diners.
In July 2013, Boulud named Ghaya Executive Pastry at his flagship DANIEL. She brings traditional French pastry training, a refined palate, and unexpected flavor combinations, juxtaposed with a sense of playfulness; but above all, she brings an unwavering desire to delight! Her professional approach and talent were recognized by the James Beard Foundation, winning “Outstanding Pastry Chef” in 2017, following previous nominations in 2012, 2015, and 2016. “Working for Daniel means always reaching for the best,” she says. “It’s knowing how to be classic and modern at the same time.”