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Warm Apple Crostata.jpg Joseph Duarte
A warm apple crostata available at The Sirena.

Desserts solidify The Georgian Hotel’s rebirth in Los Angeles

New dessert program is the final piece in resurrecting a storied history of hospitality

The Georgian Hotel, a historic Art Deco-inspired property in Santa Monica, Calif., was the place to be for many celebrities and key cultural figures from 1933 through 1960. In June 2020, Jon Blanchard, co-founder and CEO of BLVD Hospitality, and his partner Nicolo Rusconi re-launched The Georgian with the intent of making sure that special heritage finds new life.

In June 2023, the new owners found a way to create the perfect sweet ending for each dining experience in partnering with 2021 Food & Wine Best New Chef honoree Thessa Diadem. This is Diadem’s first role at a hotel property, and she oversees the dessert program at Sirena, the rebranded restaurant formerly known as formerly The Restaurant at The Georgian that re-launched on May 1, led by Chef David Alamy.

“Dessert is one of the last moments we have to wow our guests when they dine with us,” Rusconi said. “With Chef David having built such a special menu throughout our culinary program, Chef Thessa’s desserts act as the encore to the core dining experience.”

Dessert goodness is a matter of emotion

 When Blanchard and Rusconi were holding auditions for the pastry chef position, they asked candidates to prepare focaccia and their choice of two Italian desserts, as well as a classic American dessert. Chef Thessa’s preparations were a standout.

“Tastings for us have always been very emotional experiences, as food should be,” Rusconi said. "I remember Chef David, Jon, and I sitting around the table when Chef Thessa brought out her creations. Tears of happiness were shed over the focaccia. And every bite of dessert was met with awe. We all agreed they were the best desserts we’d ever had.”

Diadem, an acclaimed pastry chef known for her work at Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown and All Day Baby in Silver Lake, has taken the dessert reins with relish. Alamy, she said, has given her free rein to mold her creations as complements to Alamy’s savory menu.

“The food is unfussy but beautiful in its simplicity, and that is what I aim for in my desserts,” Diadem said.

As a nod to the hotel’s rich history, Diadem created desserts that all have some kind of nostalgic detail for Sirena, with some Italian influence. Take, for example, the Spumoni Baked Alaska:

"Baked Alaska is an undeniable dessert classic and rare to find in restaurants nowadays, especially in L.A.,” Diadem said. “Spumoni, or Neapolitan, is a flavor that just brings you back to your childhood. It's nostalgia on a plate.”

Some of the desserts are inspired by Diadem’s time in Italy, and some include California-influenced elements, utilizing seasonal market fruits. Every Saturday, the dessert special at Sirena is Chocolate Ganache Cake with Espresso Amaretto Cream.

Fostering a following with desserts

Everything on the dessert menu, for the most part, has stayed the same since the hotel’s re-launch, Diadem said. Before the opening, she devoted a month to recipe development and training, making sure the dessert menus reflected the vision currently in place for both restaurants. Guests can expect seasonal features, as well as new desserts from Diadem, whose work is inspired by international markets and farmer’s markets and from cookbooks she has collected in her international travels.

“I love reading about cooking techniques used from all over the world, classic or modern,” Diadem said. “There’s always something new to learn. Vintage cookbooks are my current obsession, and I am thinking of ways on how to reintroduce those forgotten dishes in a more modern and exciting way.”

Rusconi said that, thanks to Diadem’s passionate following in Los Angeles, many guests come in just to experience her new sweets at the hotel’s two eateries.

"When her desserts are walked through the dining room, everyone dining with us asks what they are and subsequently orders them after their meal,” Rusconi said, predicting that over the next few months, Sirena will develop a “cult following” for Diadem’s desserts. “We already have people who bring home boxes of chocolate chip cookies and pignolis just so they can share the magic with their families.”

For Diadem, the move into the hotel world has been a good one, due to Sirena being authentically chef-driven and not high-volume. So far, guests agree:

“Chef Thessa’s desserts have been described as magical, mouthwatering, and, most frequently, the best our guests ever had,” Blanchard said.

Tad Wilkes is a writer and editor in the hotel food and beverage industry.

TAGS: Chefs
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