Sonoma County chef and business owner Robert Nieto is making an appearance on Food Network’s “Holiday Wars” this December.
Nieto, a pastry chef at Jackson Family Wines and owner of Fleur Sauvage Chocolates, is one of the contestants in the holiday-themed competition. Known in the gastronomic industry as “Chef Buttercup,” the 44-year-old is not allowed to reveal many details about the four-episode series, although he did mention its focus is desserts for upcoming holiday parties.
“There are three pastry artists and one sugar artist, which is me,” he says. “We all have to develop unique desserts based on the holidays. It was a lot of improvisation. We had to think fast to design something. I have experience and work well under pressure, used to provide quick solutions.”
Food Network discovered Nieto through his social media accounts. “I make many artistic desserts that I publish and that caught their attention,” he explains.
Nieto’s connections to the region trace back to his parents, who picked fruit in Wine Country, Central Valley and Texas, where his family settled when he was a child.
“I wanted to dedicate myself to baking and when the time came I decided to go to Las Vegas,” he said. “There I learned from many chefs. The restaurant group Thomas Keller sent me to California’s wine country and before heading back, they decided to let me stay. In 2006, I came to Sonoma County,”
Nieto then joined the culinary team at Jackson Family Wines, where he is the leader of the pastry department in their properties and private events.
At the beginning of 2019 he launched his own dessert company, Fleur Sauvage Chocolates, with special attention to the pairing of his seasonal chocolates with Sonoma County wines.
“We specialize in the pairing of chocolate with wine, creating unique flavors for the different style of wines. Sometimes we are surprised that it pairs so well,” Nieto says.
The chocolates that Nieto makes look like edible works of art. Some are similar to sculptures with human shapes, exotic flowers and even silhouettes that simulate trees or metal pieces.
His skills with baking — perfected in recent years in the ovens of Jackson Family Wines, northwest of Santa Rosa — allows him to merge the delicate preparation of chocolate with pastry, generating a festival of flavors and textures in each bite.
Fleur Sauvage still operates as a family micro-enterprise. Nieto is in charge of producing his specialized desserts, and his wife is responsible for finances. “We are a small team, still with some challenges ahead.”
In terms of competitions, Nieto is no rookie. In 2017 he represented the United States in an international pastry contest held in Lyon, France, which brought together chefs from 20 countries at the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie. And he has experience on television as a participant in the “Beat Bobby Flay” show. In addition, in 2016 he was among the top 10 pastry chefs on the online magazine Dessert Professional.
Holiday Wars will be broadcast at 9 p.m. every Sunday, from Dec. 1-22, with Jonathan Bennett as the host. On the night of the grand finale, there will be a free party at Wilibees in Santa Rosa starting at 8:30 p.m., where Fleur Sauvage will share some of their desserts, as well as snacks and drinks for sale on site.
Copyright 2019 La Prensa Sonoma