When it comes to dining in Manhattan, one of the more popular restaurants is Sirio Maccioni's Le Cirque 2000, where French pastry chef Jacques Torres uses his expansive knowledge of classic pastry to create dazzling and imaginative desserts: multicolored clowns, chocolate stoves and towering pastry structures.

"The thing I like best to do is to try to create something that has never been done before," he said. "My father is a carpenter. I'm interested in building things and putting them together. They are both artistic, logical, and you have to be organized."In his new cookbook, "Dessert Circus" (William Morrow, $28), Torres explains that it is not unusual for friends and clients to ask him to create unusual desserts. "One client wanted a statue of her body in white chocolate; another asked me to recreate all of the fabulous Madison Avenue shops," he writes at the beginning of his Signature Desserts chapter.

"Fortunately, my job allows me to be very whimsical. My boss has been very supportive of the zany creations I have developed over the years."

When Adam Tihany, Cirque 2000's notable designer, asked Torres to create his wedding cake, Torres declined.

"I said, `No, they all basically look the same - one cake layer on top of another - there's no fun in that.' Tihany told me that he was as crazy as me and would I make a very unique cake for him?"

So Torres agreed.

The result was a confectionery group of Manhattan buildings, each with a cake layer suspended in the middle of each building.

"While it caused me stress while I tried to figure out how to make this cake creation, afterward I was very satisfied that I was able to figure out how to make it," he said.

Torres, 38, trim and fit, describes his job as "fun, crazy, busy, moving all the time, always running after something. No one day is like another one. I hire good people, try to motivate the whole team. I thank them often."

He attributes his high energy level to constant consumption of

sugar. "I eat sugar all day. If you cut the sugar, I go on strike!" But he also admits, "I move a lot. I keep myself busy and everyone else around me, including my girlfriend, Kris Kruid, and they all stay thin. I run 10 to 25 miles a week and have run in the New York City Marathon."

Torres began learning his way around a restaurant kitchen as a teenager, working as a busboy in a restaurant in his hometown of Bandol, France.

"I saw the chefs cooking and became interested. My brother was a cook and I asked him about it. On my days off from school and on vacations, I worked in a nearby pastry shop. My boss said if I kept coming in to work on my days off, he would give me an apprenticeship when I was the legal age of 16. I worked there for two years and in my area of France, I graduated first in my class."

Today, Torres teaches apprentices in the kitchen at Le Cirque 2000. He is also dean of pastry arts at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan.

His national series for public television, "Dessert Circus," was taped in front of a live audience in New York, with guest spots by celebrity chefs Julia Child and Jacques Pepin.

As to his plans for the future, Torres says: "You never know where life will bring you. I'll be where I'm happy. I will never give up teaching. I will always do pastry in one way or the other - perhaps at a restaurant, for a company, or just for myself. I also love the idea of shows and books."