On most weekends, Wayne Harley Brachman is on the prowl, searching for hidden treasure in Manhattan's downtown flea markets. In his eyes, old is as good as gold.
"This is a great buy; this is a great find, because it's going to work; it swivels better than a modern scoop," Brachman enthuses about one find, an ice cream scoop with a lever inside the bowl.
His love for kitsch and color are combined in his sweet creations. CBS News Correspondent Diana Olick reports on this chef who has specialized on reviving retro desserts.
"The best desserts are the desserts you remember from when you were a kid. Because when you were a kid anything sweet tastes great. Sometimes you go back and taste them again, they're not as good as you thought," he says.
But they are if Brachman has a hand in it, which he does nightly. He's a pastry chef at three swank New York City eateries.
He recreates what 50 years ago was called a smore. "Yeah, this would have been a smore. Now it's a little more modern, it's deconstructed. I'll put some sauce on there too. We don't have a campfire, so we'll roast it with this torch," he says. "Only Nabisco can make an Oreo but these are my version."
How does he compare an Oreo cookie to his "Oreo cookie?"
"Well, I think the Oreo cookie is a great cookie. It's the original cookie. It's the mother of all cookies," Brachman says. "I just used butter and vegetable shortening. Whip it all up with some confectioner's sugar and real vanilla extract. It's very, very simple, has the goo inside, and it's a homemade devil's food cookie."
Some might say these desserts from the 1950s just plain didn't taste good so why do we want them back?
"Because we remember them as being great," Brachman says. "And now we can make them from scratch. We can take the red dye No. 99 out of them. We can take all those artificial ingredients out. We can make them the way that they should taste," he adds. "But use real ingredients - real milk, real eggs, real chocolate instead of all that artificial stuff."
His desserts are much more than those familiar instant cake mixes from Pillsbury and Betty Crocker, Jell-O, instant pudding and the instant snack cakes you buy at the local grocery.
"I couldn't avoid these retro desserts from the '50s," he says. "They've got a great sense of humor and dessert is about having fun. We don't eat desserts because of the vitamins, because 'I really need to eat cake,' because it has roughage in it. We eat it because it's fun. It's total indulgence."
Brachman may look as if he's been baking in the kitchen his entire life. But once upon a time, desserts were uncharted territory for him and certainly not a career path.
"I was working in a French restaurant, and the pastry chef walked out," he says. "So I just asked the chef if I could try it the next day. And I just had collected some recipes thanight from cookbooks and magazines and tried them out.
"Hey, it's making cookies you know? This isn't rocket science!" he declares.
He instantly fell in love with the art and architecture of pastry. Now, after 15 years, Brachman is considered one of the top pastry chefs in the United States. and has written a new book Retro Desserts, a gustatory guide to old-fashioned favorites from the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s.
"Any good restaurant had to have tons of things flambéed. You had to set your toupee on fire if you wanted to be sophisticated," he says.
But at home, though, you wouldn't be flambéeing in your kitchen in the '50s would you?
"Why not? Why not? You know, just make sure the drapes aren't hanging over it! It's really dramatic. Your guests will be very impressed!"
He's as famous for wielding his kitchen wit as he is his whipped cream. And as any 21st century chef worth his salt, he takes his work to TV.
Just a few weeks ago, at the third annual chocolate show in New York, people came to indulge in all the chocolate they could get their hands on, including some of Brachman's own retro specialities.
Is he surprised at how popular these desserts have become?
"You know, they caught on like wildfire," he says. "And I think one of the reasons is Americans have a great sense of humor. We like anything that's funny....People look at a retro dessert, they crack up and say, "Wow! Remember this?'"
But even if retro becomes a thing of the past, Brachman knows there's a sweet tooth in every mouth, and he's got just the thing for it.
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