1.How did you become a pastry chef?
I had been a teacher in California, but when I moved to New York I was not able to find a teaching job, so after working all day in retail I would turn to baking for relaxation. A friend suggested I go to culinary school. I love sweets so it was only natural that I enrolled in pastry school! I was working at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and I knew that the fancy restaurant nearby, Le Cirque, would have a pastry chef. I called and asked who their pastry chef was and asked if I could speak to him. I asked all kinds of questions about the industry, schools, etc. and even asked to work with him when he suggested I intern before signing up for school. The pastry chef I had called and spoken with candidly was Jacques Torres, one of the world’s top pastry chefs. I decided on The French Culinary Institute where Jacques was the Dean of Pastry Arts. After interning at Le Cirque for months during Pastry School, I became an intern with Richard Chirol at Musette in Gramercy Park. Richard was the Pastry Chef at the legendary restaurant L’Orangerie in Los Angeles during it’s height. When school ended I worked full time with Richard at Musette for an additional year.
2. What does a typical day look like for you?
I typically wake up early, before my family, and start baking. After I feed my kids breakfast and get them off to school I take orders, go to the market for ingredients and do more baking before picking my kids up from school. After their activities, homework and family dinner, I bake again until midnight or later.
3. What is your goal with Mixed Bakery?
It is my goal to open Mixed Bakery as a storefront. I miss baking in the bakery window in front of my customers as I did while working in New York. I love the interaction with my customers.
4. What is your best baking secret that we should know about?
Add a pinch of salt to everything!
5. What is your favorite pastry to eat, your favorite pastry to make?
My favorite pastries to eat that I make are my cinnamon & raisin rugelach and my chocolate saucisson. If I am not baking, Les Petits Mitrons in Paris makes the most amazing fruit tarts. My favorite pastry to make right now is caramel mou. It is a homemade “tootsie roll” and it is so good!
6. What are the hottest trends in bakery items right now?
French Macarons seem to still be the trend. My guess is that eclairs will be next because they seem to be the pastry of the moment in France right now. Here at Mixed Bakery, Lemon Bars are the hot item. I can’t seem to bake enough!
7. Are there any unusual ingredient combinations that work surprisingly well together?
I love chocolate and lemon.
8. How do you work around the whole gluten-free craze when it comes to special orders?
There happen to be a lot of pastries that were gluten-free way before it was the trend: coconut macaroons, French macarons, meringues, crème brulee, flourless chocolate cakes, etc. I am also able to bake most of my recipes that call for flour with a combination of rice flour and corn starch and the taste, texture and quality is not compromised.
9. What is your “baking philosophy”?
I love what I do and I think it shows in what I bake. If you have seen the movie “Like Water for Chocolate,” Tita’s feelings come out in her food! Do what you love and people will love what you do!
10. Where do you find culinary inspiration?
My Grandfather, Papa Joe, and my Great Grandfather were incredible bakers. It is in my genes! Most of my inspiration comes from what I learned while working with Richard Chirol at Musette in New York. He has such a vast knowledge of pastry and he really helped shape the pastry chef I am today. He also introduced me to my husband, Yves!
11. What can’t you live without?
Butter, sugar, eggs and of course, my family!
12. What’s your most prized possession?
My hands. Without them I would not be able to bake.
13. Biggest regret?
Leaving New York after September 11th. I miss the city.
14. Your dream day in Orange County?
Starting the day with Portola Coffee then going to Cream Pan in Tustin for pastries with Yves and our kids, Maxime and Solenne. Maybe a walk along Crystal Cove Beach. Roaming around Chef’s Toys to see what’s new. Reading the latest cookbooks and cooking magazines at any bookstore. Lunch at Adya in the Packing House and home for dinner with family and friends.
15. Favorite vacation spot?
New York City! I love the energy of the city. I also love Paris, London and San Francisco.
16. Favorite restaurants in Orange County?
Andreis, I happen to know the Chef! Din Tai Fung, Adya, Taco Maria, Marche Modern, Cream Pan (bakery) and Portola(coffee).
17. Biggest accomplishment?
Changing my career at 28 after college and graduate school and enrolling in Pastry School.
18. What’s your biggest fear?
Rubber bands! I snapped one in my eye when I was 4 and had to have eye surgery.
19. What are your favorite cookbooks and why?
My cookbooks from Trish Deseine. Her recipes actually work and taste great. Donna Hay cookbooks and magazines for the great photos.
20. Secret most people don’t know about you?
I am almost deaf in my right ear and have significant hearing loss in the left, so please don’t think I am ignoring you. I just can’t hear you.