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Looking for inspiration for your holiday desserts? Look to artists, says Stephen Durfee, longtime instructor in the baking and pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

That's the assignment he gave to a group of students on a recent Monday afternoon. The next day, he explained, in groups of two, they'd be visiting different artists in Napa Valley.

On Wednesday, they'd devise a dessert inspired by what they saw -- and that night they'd serve their creations to the artists.

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The students were still finishing their creations when the seven artists arrived at the St. Helena campus of the CIA. 

Are you familiar with the Bouquets to Arts exhibit at the de Young museum, where floral designers create beautiful flower arrangements that are inspired by works of art? I've borrowed this concept for my pastry design class - student teams are paired with a local artist, spend a morning in the artist's studio to learn about their style and overall philosophy, then come back to the kitchen to create a plated dessert that reflect's their artist's style. It's a neat project - we've worked with Napa Valley painters, sculptors, musicians, print makers, potters, landscape architects...even florists.

The resulting desserts have been interesting and the students have totally embraced the concept.

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