GENEVA – Chef Alain Roby took a piece of warm sugar, worked it in his hands like clay into a ball, then curved it into a bowl-like shape.
“I will make a little swan for you,” Roby said to a crowd of about 50 at the Geneva Public Library on Tuesday night. “I will add some air. And make the head, neck and body. And I will pull the beak.”
It was the first public use of the new library’s demonstration kitchen, with Roby’s famous sugar work displayed on four screens so nothing would be missed.
Roby, owner of the All Chocolate Kitchen, 33 S. Third St., Geneva, then instructed his pastry chef Lyndsey Patton to hold its beak and neck in place while he used a small blow torch to soften a second block of sugar so he could shape it into the swan’s wing.
“You can add but you cannot remove it,” Roby said, as he worked this second piece of sugar. “Whatever shape you have, you have to control it.”
The sculpture calls for combining the sugar with water and corn syrup and cooking it to 300 degrees, Roby said. It cools off just enough to handle, with the aid of a fan to help it cool.
“You have to take your time – with patience,” Roby said.
Then he took another piece of sugar and pulled it one way, then another way, and back again, eventually folding the pulled ribbons of sugar into a bow.
He molded other pieces of sugar into a rose, showing how each petal is slightly curled at the edges to look like a real flower.
Then he showed how he proposed to his wife, Esther, creating a miniature swan for the top of the ring box – which she said she still has.
“My wife Esther is the soul of the All Chocolate Kitchen,” Roby said.
Patton then presented those attending small servings of chocolate pot de creme – which Geneva residents Ronae Granzine and Kelly Wietsma said they enjoyed as much as Roby’s presentation.
“It’s really good,” Granzine said, spooning a small mouthful.
“I loved it,” Wietsma said. “And I loved the demo kitchen at the new library – it’s totally worth it. I came here a lot to cooking classes at the old library, but this is fabulous.”
Roby’s presentation was part of the Geneva Public Library’s celebration of its one-year anniversary in the new building.
Other events this week are “Need to Be Seen” Live Radio Troupe from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday; memorial for Gigi Kimball – The Collaboration Zone at the new library is named in her honor – at 6 p.m. Wednesday; “Living the (Midsummer Night’s) Dream: Language and Context of Shakespeare’s Comedy” from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Also, Edith Farnsworth and the iconic Farnsworth House from 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday; Bizarre Illinois History from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday; Sneak Preview of Shakespeare in the Park from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday; Sing and Dance with Macaroni Soup! from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday; Create Your Own Shadow Box, 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday; “True Stories From the Roaring ’20s” from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday.