What's one of your earliest food memories?
When I was young, I spent all my summers with my grandparents and some of my fondest memories are associated with helping my grandmother cook and bake. Especially the afternoons making bread with her. I was fascinated with how you could take flour and water and salt, and you got bread at the end. And I liked making cakes. I was often making up my own recipes and combinations—usually to disastrous effects! I still do that now when I cook and bake—but with better results!
So, you're both a cook and a pastry chef?
I'm a Red Seal cook who's pushed her way into the pastry area! I love making crème brûlée and strudel as much as I love making soup. I'd say I'm a cook who does pastry as opposed to a pastry chef.
Any kitchen disasters you're willing to share?
Making fudge for the first time—a hot mess in every direction. I think I still bear some physical scars.
Any food item you could never give up?
Butter and cream are my happy foods. But my number one ingredient that I cannot function without would have to be butter. My Christmas brunch menu for four people uses 4 pounds of butter. I'm not comfortable with less than 2 pounds of butter in the house.
Name a few things you always have on hand at home.
Butter for sure. Cheese—a couple of different kinds. I'm a vegetarian, so soy products, grains, cornmeal, arborio rice.
Tired and hungry at the end of a long day: what do you eat?
I make something fast and easy at home. I always have fresh tomatoes. So a tomato, basil, parmesan cheese salad with balsamic vinegar—I eat that probably three times a week. Or toast.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Chocolate cupcakes from Safeway. I love, love, love them. I have a six-pack of those in my cupboard right now. If they don't have any, I just buy an eight-inch chocolate birthday cake instead. Especially the ones with roses. Love the icing roses.
What is your favourite...
vegetable? Tomato—and asparagus and celery
fruit? Raspberries, hands down
dessert? Crème brûlée—it's the epitome of dessert to me... crunchy and smooth, warm and cold... I'll make a batch, freeze portions and take them out when I need a fix.
sandwich? Cucumber and dill cream cheese on a croissant
soup? From-scratch, homemade tomato soup when tomatoes are in season
Are you a snacker?
Not at home—only at work... on pastries.
When you go out, what's your drink of choice?
Champagne. Or beer.
Do you have any special dishes in your repertoire?
I have a holiday brunch dish I came up with: a Grand Marnier French toast–bread pudding–muffin. With syrup.
What might people be surprised to find in your kitchen?
Because I'm a vegetarian—me roasting big hunks of meat! I really like cooking meat for other people—I bought an enamelled cast iron cassoulet dish because I thought it was perfect for roasting a chicken.
Any culinary dreams?
To have my own restaurant one day—making soups.
If you weren't a chef, what would you be?
I'd be a surgeon. I'm a science geek through and through!
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I have almost 150 pairs of shoes—mostly high heels upwards of four inches. Ironically I spend 90 percent of my time in kitchen clogs.
What do you have the most fun doing in your pastry work?
I get a pure joy from making yeast-leavened products, like bread, croissants, danishes, etc. The metamorphosis at each stage of the process is almost magical. Also, for the artistic pleasure, I really enjoy sugar and pastillage work—often frustrating, always rewarding.
What do you do to relax, unwind and de-stress?
I read, even during the five minutes while waiting for a coffee! I always have a book with me. I'm a big fan of magic realism. And I do Pilates.