Husk Savannah is preparing for a bountiful harvest these next few months with the help of regional purveyors, offering an array of fresh produce for pastry chef Rebecca Elsishans’ spring and summer dessert menus. Highlighting the best of these locally grown fruits, Elsishans’ approach is all about reimagining Southern classics by adding new layers of flavor and texture through her use of fresh strawberries and blueberries, sourced from Georgia-based Heritage Farm.

Elsishans is putting fun, elevated twists on dessert staples like Biscuit Beignets. Using biscuit dough made in-house and adding a variety of spices including cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper, Husk’s Biscuit Beignets are a sweet (and slight savory) treat topped with rose cremé anglaise and complemented by orange jelly.

Chef Elsishans recently shared more about her approach to reimagining Southern classics.

How did you come up with this strategy for Husk Savannah?

Chef Elsishans: To me, this is the menu design that makes the most sense for Husk Savannah as a Southern fine dining restaurant. It’s important to me that guests experience something new when they dine here, and that I am paying homage to both the restaurants, and my own Southern roots. I think a lot about my great grandma when I create dishes. While she passed before I was born, I’ve heard many stories about her baking. I feel a deep connection to her, and I want to pass that care and tradition onto our guests.

What are some ways in which you’ve accomplished this?

When I think of a dish, I usually start with an ingredient I want to highlight and think about what classic desserts are made with it. Last strawberry season, I took my inspiration from a classic strawberry shortcake. But instead of just a cake with strawberries and whipped cream, I soaked a sponge cake in fermented honey and served it with vanilla ice cream and strawberries macerated in honey. This is one of the dishes that I have been most proud of creating during my time at Husk Savannah.

How have locally sourced ingredients factored into your menu?

Locally sourced ingredients are the main driver of my menu, and of the larger menu at Husk Savannah. First, I decide which fruit I want to use and then build a dish around that. Without our local farmers, I wouldn’t be able to build a menu the way I do. Even a lot of the grains and flours I use are locally sourced. Spring and summer are the best times of year for me as a chef, as I have so many types of produce to choose from.

Are you seeing any current dessert trends in the industry, fruit-based or otherwise?

One benefit of being a pastry chef is that dessert is supposed to be fun. I have noticed a lot of restaurants taking their desserts in a more whimsical direction. I think desserts can have a lot more room for experimentation and playfulness than other parts of the menu, and pastry chefs are taking advantage of that.

I have also seen chefs using more savory techniques in their desserts, especially smoking, grilling and fermentation. Using these techniques in desserts can help to take them out of their usual box.