Mizner CC’s Chef Voorn – An Artist on Multiple Levels

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By David DiPino The Pineapple Contributing Writer Mizner Country Club executive pastry chef Alex Voorn says the dessert plate is a white canvas. Chef Voorn would know, and the reason why has something to do with his mastery of two distinct art styles. Chef Voorn was an artist long before he chased, caught and made his culinary dreams an impressive reality. As a painter, Voorn combined the two art styles to create massive works of abstract surrealism. Walk into chef Voorn’s work area, a customized bake shop at Mizner Country Club in Delray Beach, and it’s dominated by his painted artworks which he calls the daily “inspiration” to the production of his decadent pastries. “My second studio is the bake shop,” says Voorn. Chef Voorn’s life story is longer than an Ernest Hemingway war novel and it’s as action- packed as “Old Man In The Sea.” The chef and artist Voorn catches the big fish. His current painting “The Dreamcatcher” is so large at seven feet by seven feet, and so heavy at 155 lbs., that he will have to remove part of the kitchen wall to get it out of the second home he bought in Delray Beach. Voorn, bought the second home for the sole reason of creating artwork. The painting itself has 60 lbs. of oil paint on it. “That painting, ‘The Dreamcatcher’ belongs on the wall of an Oceanside mansion,” says Voorn. That’s also probably the only place it would fit. Since executive pastry chef Voorn has teamed up with Mizner County Club executive chef Sean Key, the club’s numbers have risen. Mizner Country Club is a wedding destination, a club member’s perfect utopia of dining, featuring four-star cuisine, and a Mount Everest of dessert options, courtesy of executive pastry chef Voorn. “I take a blank canvas, a dessert plate, and make it into a painting,” says Voorn. As the executive pastry chef at Mizner Country Club, Voorn carries an impressive dessert menu dominated by the earth’s seasons. Using what’s in season is one of the most important components of being a pastry chef, says Voorn. On any given week at Mizner Country Club, restaurant patrons are treated to an ever-changing eclectic dessert menu of bombe glacée, Napoleon and Tiramasu as well as dozens of other pastry creations. Bombe glacée is an ice cream dessert frozen in a spherical mould so as to resemble a cannonball. Inside of Voorn’s bombe glacée is a treat that makes the restaurant patron feel like royalty. “Its Italian meringue, egg whites, whipped cream, dried fruit, raspberries, Grand Marnier, Pernot, honey sugar, dry flavors and 24K edible gold leaf,” says Chef Voorn. His Tiramisu features Ladyfingers, which is a fingerlike sponge cookie cake soaked in dark liquor. Tiramisu is found in the mainstream; however few are as refreshing and bursting with flavor as chef Voorn’s masterpiece. The Tiramisu sits above a red garnish of sprayed cocoa and simply, but artistically. garnished with what looks like edible chocolate chop sticks, and tastes oh so rich. Chef Voorn says “the simpler a dessert or painting, the more difficult it is to create.” Right now chef Voorn is also offering a succulent Napoleon, a compilation of chef Voorn’s experience working with puff pastry, homemade pastry cream, the perfect recipe of semi-sweet and dark chocolate, homemade whipping cream and combined with his homemade liquid fondant icing. Chef Voorn garnished the Napoleon with white chocolate and colored cocoa powder, a dark blue bordered plate dominated by a square clear center, topped with decorated hand-painted chocolate pieces. “Positive space versus negative space … A lot of the time it’s more important what you don’t put on the plate than what you do,” says Voorn. “With that said, whatever you put on the plate has to be right.” Both the artist and chef Voorn, two diverse personalities of which both are approachable and appealing, will take the time to teach the many admirers of his work that they’re studies of simplicity. “First you have to paint the classical paintings. It is the same with cooking, as long as you are creative.” “The idea grows… The positives and negatives…” As an artist, Voorn spent time from a young age involving himself in artwork. As his passion grew, Voorn began studying the artwork of Marc Chagall and engulfed himself in classical drawings. He also began to emulate the drawing of M.C. Escher and the paintings of Salvador Dali. “I’m combining the abstract with surrealism,” says Voorn. “The art has to play with the color on the canvas.” To this day, Voorn says he can walk into any gallery and pick out a Dali versus a fake. Dali’s paintings have been some of the most forged of all time. Alex Voorn was born during World War II, in Indonesia. His family moved from the Netherlands as the Nazi’s and Adolf Hitler strengthened their hold on Europe. The family moved around a bit to Borneo, then arrived on the island of Java in Indonesia. Chef Voorn almost didn’t make it past his second birthday. When his family was living in Borneo, little Alex Voorn was playing in a room by himself next to an open window. A cannibal from the nearby jungle was salivating watching the little boy from the window. To cannibals, Voorn says, a toddler was a delicacy due to the tenderness of their meat. As Alex played in the room the cannibal grabbed at his leg causing the toddler to scream in fear. Alex’s mom came running in the room and locked eyes with the cannibal man who actually scurried off into the woods. Immediately she pleaded with her husband to leave the island. “I still have a carved bone scallop knife that my father had obtained from the cannibals. It still has blood on it… The knife was used to scoop the brain from the scull,” Voorn says. Somehow his father had obtained the knife while communicating with cannibals in the Indonesian jungle, those cannibals at the time of his dad’s encounter had full swelling stomachs. Voorn’s father was in the jungle with other Dutch men trying to persuade the cannibals to choose a path towards the religion of Christianity. “I still have sculptures, masks, shields and a few of the cannibal’s knifes as part of my personal collection. Once again, I use them for inspiration to my artwork,” says Voorn. Voorn’s family ended up moving to the Southern Caribbean island of Curacao. That’s where Voorn grew up, and the Caribbean became home as the family later moved to Bermuda and the Bahamas. At college age, he migrated north and farther about the globe to North America. He has a Bachelors of Fine Art, with a Major in Painting and Sculpting from Ontario College of Art and Design and the University of Toronto. He also spent time studying in Florence, Italy, concentrating on the sculptures and artwork Michelangelo did while being commissioned by the Medici family. “While in Florence I was more impressed by his unfinished works of marble on display than finished works, like the statue of ‘David.’ I studied those unfinished marble pieces vigorously,” says Voorn. “I still do bronze sculptures today. I create in two-dimensional art and three-dimensional art. You could also call me interested in impressionism, combined with the abstract.” His artwork has been exhibited at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, the Phillips Galleries and Breteau Gallery in Palm Beach, among others. An accomplished sculpture artist, he’s also known around elite culinary circles as one of the most talented ice and food sculpture artists in South Florida. “I love sculpture! That’s how it started in the kitchen…” Today, Voorn is a surrealist with two ways of expressing his creativity, one being on canvas and the other by designing magnificent pastry creations. As executive pastry chef at Mizner Country Club in Delay Beach, he takes his talents from the canvas to the kitchen. Arriving at Mizner Country Club, often beginning work at 3 a.m., he creates the baked goods for the daily lunch buffet and dinner service. What is left of his work generates in an explosion of offerings at the club’s special events, and to awing those in attendance. “As a pâtissier I get to experience the satisfaction that comes from turning a pile of raw ingredients into a beautiful array of warm, delectable treats, all before breakfast time. It’s art just waiting to happen…” says Voorn. Voorn is at a point in his art career where he’d like to take showing his works to the next level. He’s showed on Palm Beach, but now he’s looking for new customers and galleries to collect his works. Using the “Old Masters’ techniques,” he expresses those images by the use of composition, energy, and the intense values of color. For more information on the artist Alex Voorn visit: www.alexvoorn.com and for executive pastry chef Alex Voorn at Mizner Country Club visit: www.miznercc.org.