While Joshua Coleman was studying at Johnson & Wales University, pastry class was his “least favorite.”
“I never thought I’d do plated desserts when I was in school,” says Coleman, who now excels at exactly that as pastry chef of Halifax in Hoboken’s W Hotel. “Now I think about how I can make dessert an experience for somebody.”
After gaining experience at two Jersey City bakeries—Choc-O-Pain and the now-closed Bucket & Bay Craft Gelato—Coleman brought his skills to Halifax in December 2021. It’s his first role in a hotel restaurant.
Coleman has just introduced Halifax’s new seasonal dessert menu, featuring pumpkin and apple flavors alongside some unexpected twists.
“I had to sit down and think about what the season means to me,” he says. “I like to think of classic desserts and how I can recreate them in a new way.”
NJM: What drew you to pastries rather than savory dishes?
Joshua Coleman: When I was younger, my dad was really into culinary. He used to work for different hospitals and would help with creating menus for people who can’t have much sugar and stuff like that. He was always bringing home different foods. One time he brought home cookie dough, and the first time we made them, they were burnt. I started thinking about what we could do differently.
What keeps pastry-making interesting?
I really like the science behind it. Cooking is very much to taste; if you mess up a little bit, it can be fixed. In baking and pastry, if you mess up one little thing, it will change the whole course of what you’re trying to make.
What went into brainstorming the fall desserts at Halifax?
In school they taught us about transforming something popular into something new and different. I try to think of something that would be a fan favorite—and usually, it’s chocolate. I wanted to make things I could have fun with.
Tell me about the new desserts.
I really enjoy pumpkin pie but I wanted to do something different. I did a graham cake, filled it with pumpkin mousse, and had it rolled and encased in chocolate bark. I encased all that in a smoke bubble, which you pop when you get the dessert. The aroma reminds you of fall. Trying to figure out the mechanics of that was interesting. I ended up using a little smoke gun that bartenders use on cocktails.
There is also a turtle pie cheesecake. Turtle pie is very popular around this time, and I have learned at this restaurant that a lot of people have a craving for cheesecake! Mine is a vanilla cheesecake, stuffed with a chocolate-pecan crunch and topped with a caramel glaze.
Apple fritters are a staple here, but I changed the accompanying sauces this season. They are maple ganache, vanilla bean curd and apple caramel.
The last thing is the apple pie choux. I basically revamped the apple pie and turned it into a cream puff.
Do you have a favorite fall flavor?
Apples and pears are my two favorites. There are so many kinds of apples. It’s always a different experience [depending on which kind you use].
What’s your favorite part about working in Hoboken?
This is my first hotel restaurant. I used to work at small mom-and-pop shops, so it’s a big difference. My favorite part about being in this area is that everyone has an opinion. I may have gone to school to make these pastries, but I’m not making them for myself. [Patrons] can really critique things or appreciate something new that I do. It’s always cool to get differing opinions.