Almost 3 years ago a friend asked me “if you were to open your own place, what would it be?”
As a pastry chef, it was a tough question to answer. I had been working the fine dining pastry station for 15 years. My first thought was “can’t I just open a restaurant built around my pastry station?”
Maybe as a future dream project, but realistically in my small town, it would be way too much of a gamble.
For a restaurant chef, I think that question opens up many possibilities. Fine dining, casual, market driven, seafood, bbq, gastropub, winebar, French, Italian, American, Mexican, Vietnamese influences…now chefs are opening restaurants that cater to casual and fine dining, pleasing everyone, in buildings with multiple floors!
For a pastry chef, especially one that solely worked at very intimate, high end restaurants, the avenues are a little more limited. A dessert bar WOULD be a dream, like a sushi restaurant where I could stand behind a counter and do 3 to 4 course tasting menus, where the pastry chef has control over the front of house, the design, the service standards, where I could engage with the guests and not be considered an afterthought, as sometimes happens in standard restaurants.
So I gave the question serious thought. Chocolates (I’m not that disciplined), pastries, cakes, viennoiserie (those already exist in my neighborhood and they make some quality stuff), breads (would really love to but I’ve barely got my fingers sticky in the natural leavened sourdough tub)…..
What I have been doing consistently for 15 years in fine dining restaurants is make ice cream. Every single restaurant I’ve worked in we have made ice cream in house. On almost every dish. With a Pacojet, with a small batch freezer. With liquid nitrogen.
In thinking about it, within the last 5 years most of my plated desserts would stem from some kind of crazy ice cream flavor.
Beeswax, celery root, parsley and shiso, fermented pear, sunchoke, cucumber and pineapple, even uni and foie gras ice creams…basically anything in the kitchen was up for grabs in my book.
And that thought answered the question of “what style of business would you like to open”.
And now I have exited the restaurant and entered the ice cream shop.
The question asked isn’t an uncommon one for chefs. But I do think for a pastry chef it proposes some interesting limits.
How does a pastry chef stand out from the chef and restaurateur? How do they establish their own names? How do they even set up a future for their livelihood? That is a huge question we should ask ourselves. I want to own something, to support my future, something where I have control over, because I don’t have that total control within the small restaurant within the hotel within the restaurant group that I had previously worked for. Or any of the other restaurants that I worked in.
Now I am a business owner. Now I am able to open a direct dialogue to my guests. That is what I am excited about.