He has two world records, countless honors in the international culinary world and has baked for kings and presidents, yet Alain Roby managed a first this year. He wrote his first cookbook.
"American Classics: Casual and Elegant Desserts" came out just months ago by Roby, a Geneva resident and corporate pastry chef with Hyatt Hotels.
"I always wanted to do a cookbook," says Roby, who previously contributed to a collection of recipes from pastry chefs from around the country. For two years he wrote, tested and baked both in his commercial kitchen and at the oven in his gingerbread house of a home before selecting the final 50 for the book.
Still, it's a surprising title from the French-born Roby who studied classic French desserts in Paris and graduated with honors in chocolate work and sugar artistry.
"When I came to America I discovered the pastries were much more casual," Roby says. American culinary icon James Beard helped open his eyes when they worked together at the Vista Hotel International at the World Trade Center in New York City.
"I was working with him (Beard), seeing his secrets and all his different desserts," he says. "They were homey, comfort foods like apple pie and double fudge cake and brownies."
In the book Roby puts his own touch on those and other traditional American treats. Key Lime Pies are baked in a chocolate cookie crust, rhubarb mingles with tapioca before being spooned over fresh strawberries, blueberry cobbler gets a buttermilk biscuit crust and apples mix with basil and cinnamon in a pan-less pie.
The book is arranged by seasons and glossy colorful photos accompany most recipes. Chocolate makes frequent appearances - "my favorite ingredient is chocolate; you can do so much with it" - and he promises home bakers will not walk away frustrated.
"The recipes are pretty easy for Mom or Dad to do," he says.
A portion of the proceeds from book sales benefit the Saving Tiny Hearts Society, an organization close to his own heart. Two years ago his son Jonathan was playing football for Geneva High School when he collapsed on the field. Subsequent tests found a heart defect.
Jonathan now is doing fine (though he's no longer on the gridiron) and last year accompanied his dad to Hong Kong while he crafted the world's tallest Christmas tree out of chocolate.