Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Hadassah Brook, Pastry Chef at Café Chocolat and a “Cronut®” Queen!

Chef Hadassah Brook, a graduate of our Pastry Arts Program and the Pastry Chef at Café Chocolat in Cedarhurst, NY, took a few minutes to shake the flour off of her apron and share the story of her path in to the world of pastry arts (including how she fed into “Cronut®” madness this past Chanukah!)

Number of years working in the (kosher) food business: 

What was your first job in the food business? 2nd job?
Assistant Pastry Chef at Chocolate Charm followed by Assistant at Marron Bistro.

How did your culinary education help you in moving forward to a job/career in the kosher food business?
My education at CKCA provided exposure to information and techniques and lots of opportunities to practice under the tutelage of experienced chefs. Ultimately, this helped me gain the confidence to pursue new opportunities.

In one sentence, describe what you do in your current position...
As the head pastry chef, I create, develop and produce updated/elevated versions of classically inspired pastry.

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
My greatest rewards are providing others with pleasure, educating eaters about their food and the spiritual pleasure that results from any act of creation.

Also of interest is that I take challah with a bracha nearly every single day. I promise you this is not only changing me for the better, it's definitely affecting all of my coworkers. The entire mitzvah is symbolic of the work of every kosher chef. We are elevating our work and giving it meaning simply by keeping it kosher. I'm honored to be a part of elevating the world. 

What do you find the most challenging?
The limitations of the physical body. If I could work every minute without ever needing to rest or address other needs, I probably would! My list of aspirations is currently at infinity, but unfortunately I can't seem to mutate into a culinary robot... yet. 

Tell Us about “Cronut®” Madness
For Chanukah, we decided to debut our own take on the famous croissant-doughnut. Each batch takes several days of lamination to achieve results and I simply couldn't make them as fast as people were eating them! After frying, they were dipped in a warm vanilla infused milk glaze. They were finished either with a milk chocolate ganache or a vanilla cream cheese frosting coupled with a cranberry-blueberry reduction.

Am I allowed to humbly say that they really are quite delicious? The madness was in watching the craze take place! People learned that daily production was limited and there had to be a limit of six per customer. Given their success, we have continued the product and are creating new finishings and toppings every week. Two of my favorites have been milk chocolate salted caramel ganache and the classic cinnamon. I'm dreaming of a taste adventure... Everyone is encouraged to join! 

What is the most important lesson you ever learned on the job? 
1. A chef's talent lies in their ability to make good decisions every single moment. (Colloquially, we would call this "making good calls")
2. Trust your unconscious mind. It knows more than you.
3. If you're going to test the consistency of balsamic reduction with your bare hand, you will always lose. Also, the doctor will probably make fun of you.

What is the most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on the job?
Many years ago my shirt caught on fire. To this day, I still have no idea how. I didn't even remember to stop, drop and roll. I can't remember how the fire went out. I remember being most upset that my clothes were ruined; never mind that I had just been on FIRE.

What are your passions outside of cooking / baking?
Art & music. My personal time is usually spent holed up in my bedroom throwing paint at things. 

What do you want to be known for in the culinary world?

Describe the best meal you ever had…
In Rome at Ba'ghetto, the milchig one. The suppli. The ravioli. The mozzarella. The bottarga. The truffle oil. The gelato at San Crispino. I'm getting emotional just thinking about this. 

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in becoming a chef?
Please be truly passionate about food and please be genuinely open to learning constantly. 

How do you think kosher food will change over the next 5 years? 10 years? 
It's going to radically accelerate in quality. Eventually, people are going to become educated enough to make meaningful food choices. For anyone who is part of the HOOKOS (
Holy Order Of the Knights Of Shabbos) program, think - pulled beef sandwich at your Shabbos table.

Favorite food to eat? I have too many commitment issues to answer this question.
Favorite food to cook? Anything new. I enjoy acts of creation above all else. 
Favorite Cookbook? Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold
Favorite Celebrity Chef? Michel Roux Jr. 
Favorite kitchen tool? Hands. 

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