FRANK URSO – STAR CAREER ACADEMY BAKING FACULTY
Executive Pastry Chef; Philadelphia
Frank Urso sold his first wedding cake when he was 13 years old. This cake was the first time Urso had attempted this recipe, and it ignited his lifelong passion for desserts.
A Long Island native, Urso cultivated his pastry skills with the help of his mother and grandmother. His grandmother was an expert baker who introduced him to various kitchen tools and cookbooks, always with a strong emphasis on dessert. In no time, Urso was working in local bakeries, planning meetings for his high school gourmet club, and running his own freelance business – ‘All Occasion Cakes by Frank.’
While a student at Johnson & Wales University, Urso spent his summers working in South Carolina at The Mill, a brewery, bakery and restaurant in Charleston. It was there that he gained knowledge of bread making. While at The Mill, he also helped manage the bakery’s sustainable practices, which offered him the chance to utilize the unused grains from the beer by incorporating them into his breads.
Taking his love for bread making back to New York, Urso began working in research and development at the baking company Abel & Schaffer in 1995, focusing on a variety of specialty breads. With this extensive knowledge under his belt, Urso accepted a position as Pastry Chef at The New York Palace Hotel in 1997. The kitchen of Le Cirque 2000 was attached to the hotel’s pastry kitchen, and it was there that he met and began collaborating with Jaques Torres on various VIP projects. Urso also had the opportunity to work at the Peninsula Hotel, where he continued to garner respect for his exemplary work in the kitchen.
Urso and his wife made the decision to move to her hometown of Philadelphia in 2002. He started working at The Rittenhouse Hotel, creating desserts for a number of banquets and weddings, and in 2003, two of his wedding cakes were featured in Philadelphia Weddings. The Rittenhouse Hotel houses the famed restaurant Lacroix, and Urso was able to collaborate with renowned chef Jean-Marie Lacroix, creating the majority of Lacroix’s breakfast pastries, as well as the dessert cart for lunch and brunch.
In 2004, Urso teamed up with acclaimed restaurateur Stephen Starr and Executive Chef James Locascio, to open the sophisticated steakhouse, Barclay Prime. In his first position as Executive Pastry Chef, Urso created a menu that reflected his admiration for fun and playful desserts. Banana Cream, Caramel Apple Cheesecake and Toasted Peanut Butter S’mores, all pay homage to the primary recipes that Urso learned and perfected as a teenager. He has begun to pass the recipes on to his daughter, who (at four years old) is an avid baker who hopes to follow in her father’s footsteps.
Most recently Chef Urso partnered with Icing Smiles organization, a nonprofit organization that provides custom celebration cakes and other treats to families impacted by the critical illness of a child. He created, baked and decorated a Despicable Me cake fulfilling the wish of a local four-year-old Camden, NJ boy in ill health which was presented to him at the Ronald McDonald House on August 31, 2013, on his fourth birthday. “Creating this special unique cake for this young boy allowed me to do what I love and have the opportunity to make a sick child very happy for his birthday,” says Urso.