Originally from Austria, Chef Konrad comes to Memphis by way of a string of 5-star pastry kitchens in Michigan and California. Immediately inspired by his new Southern surroundings, Chef Konrad delighted in sharing his latest creation – a chocolate-covered peanut butter and banana cake fit for The King.
But that Memphis confection had even earlier origins for Chef Konrad – a banana and vanilla cream cake that his mother baked for him while growing up. It was here in the most formative of kitchens that a young Konrad got his first sweet taste of pastry baking, making apple strudel and pound cake alongside his mother. He studied television cooking shows to learn the basics.
Spitzbart began his professional career apprenticing in restaurants throughout Austria before moving to America in 1991 to focus solely on the art of pastry. He worked four seasons at the Grand Hotel Mackinac Island, initially as assistant pastry chef before being promoted to head pastry chef. During the hotel’s off-season, he would return to his native Austria to continue to hone his new-found pastry skills through the winter months.
In 1995, Chef Konrad moved to the city to work as executive pastry chef at The Ritz Carlton Detroit. But after three years, Chef Konrad packed his bags once again. Drawn by the bright lights of Hollywood, Chef Konrad became pastry chef at the historic Beverly Hills Hotel, a 5-star, 5-diamond legend with a list of celebrity guests that reads like a who’s who of Hollywood dating back to the silent film era.
In 2001, the opportunity to contribute to the reinvention of another 90210 property beckoned and Chef Konrad made the move to The Beverly Hilton as the hotel began an $80 million upgrade. As executive pastry chef, Spitzbart created delectable desserts for more than 300 events a year, including many high-profile affairs like Oscar and Grammy after-parties. One of the most glamorous events was the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globe Awards, for which Chef Konrad created a golden chocolate dome filled with cherry chocolate brandy mousse and decorated with a chocolate film strip.
Today, Chef Konrad still relies on the basics he learned early on. “The fundamentals are most important,” he says. “Everything, even the latest pastry trends, comes from the basics. Everything new is derived from something else.” Even peanut butter and banana Elvis cakes.