Gina DePalma, 49, a pastry chef whose artfully simple Italian desserts helped make Babbo in Greenwich Village one of Manhattan’s most beloved and admired restaurants, died Tuesday at a hospice in the Bronx. The cause was ovarian cancer, said her sister, Maria DePalma.
DePalma credited her mother and grandmother, Italian immigrants from Calabria, for teaching her not only how to cook but also how to think about food. “Use what is local, use what is available, and use ingredients to their fullest potential,” she wrote in the preface to “Dolce Italiano: Desserts From the Babbo Kitchen,” published in 2007.
Her reverence for simplicity kept her on the margins of the pastry scene, despite stints at some of Manhattan’s finest restaurants, until she met Mario Batali, the chef and owner of Po. While she was making desserts at the Cub Room, he paid her a visit and presented his idea for a new restaurant, which he envisioned as a shrine to rustic Italian cooking. “It was a concept of dessert that was entirely familiar to me,” she wrote in her cookbook.
Batali, in an interview Friday, said, “I hired her an hour after meeting her.”
When Babbo opened in 1998, she was the pastry chef, turning out chocolate polenta tarts, strawberries in Chianti with black pepper and ricotta cream, and her signature dessert, saffron panna cotta with poached peaches. Batali said she was “the mother soul of the entire kitchen.”
In 2008, Bon Appétit magazine named her best pastry chef of the year. A year later, the James Beard Foundation presented her with its award for outstanding pastry chef.
Gina DePalma was born on Sept. 16, 1966, in Mineola, N.Y., and grew up in Fairfax, Va. She began cooking with her mother, she wrote on her website, “as soon as I could stand on a stool.”
Stein Eriksen, 88, an Olympic gold medalist from Norway whose charisma, dazzling gymnastic grace and innovative style influenced generations of skiers around the world and who capitalized on his appeal by helping launch ski resorts across the United States, died Dec. 27 at his home in Park City, Utah.
His death was announced by Utah’s Deer Valley Resort, which he helped found in 1981 and turn into one of the country’s premier destinations for winter sports. The cause was not disclosed, but Eriksen was hospitalized in 2013 for “neurological symptoms.” His health had weakened after a skiing accident in 2007.
Eriksen, who came from an accomplished athletic family, put on his first pair of skis when he was 3 and practiced skiing secretly deep in the mountains during the German occupation of Norway in World War II.
When he competed, he was always bareheaded to allow the sun to gleam off his luxuriant blond hair.
In the 1950s, he developed a new method of making turns, called the reverse-shoulder technique, which enabled him to slice through the gates of slalom and giant slalom races with breathtaking speed.
As an instructor, Eriksen was known for his disciplined approach. He more or less invented the position of “director of skiing” and, beginning in the 1950s, was hired to organize ski programs, design courses and revitalize resorts in Michigan, Vermont, Colorado, Idaho and California.
In the late 1960s, Eriksen came to Utah, where he helped transform Park City into a popular haven for winter sports.
Eriksen helped found and design the Deer Valley Resort, which opened near Park City in 1981. Its well-appointed and celebrity-studded Stein Eriksen Lodge is often ranked the No. 1 ski hotel in the world.