Yesterday we chatted with Chef Veronica Arroyo of Bourbon Steak about her passion for pastry. Today she shares more of her story.
You worked with culinary stars throughout the years, but tell us more about your experience with Michael DeMaria at Michael's at the Citadel.
He's quite a character! I really credit Michael with a lot of my PR skills and dealing with the public and dealing with crowds because as a chef...you want your food to represent your persona. I had to do a studio kitchen at least twice a week for him....at first I was a little hesitant but after a while ...people are just really excited when you're doing something in front of them and it made me happy too. He really helped me come out of my shell and kind of present my persona finally.
'Till it's done.
I had a young cook who is actually still with me now. I was with Michael in the kitchen and she asked me, 'Chef how long should I bake this?' I remember Michael standing by me and I said, 'Until it's done" and Michael said, "Yeah, of course, til it's done obviously!"...Michael [always says] 'you cook things until they're perfect, you cook things until they're done,' that was the proper answer. It just kind of came out simply because that was the atmosphere in which we were.
Do you have a chef role model?
There's a pastry chef named Lincoln Carson, he's one of the top ten pastry chefs in America, he's had so many accomplishments that they're hard to note. Whenever I'm able to talk to him or just chat about certain things, there's so much depth in the conversations that we have. I learn something new every time I speak to him...If anything he exudes information and just gives so much that it's hard to take in all that he knows.
It's about humility.
I guess chefs get caught up in this persona that they have ...and then there's the human being that they are, and with [Lincoln], the human being that he is and the chef that he is are the same person.
Describe your style and what sets you apart.
Depending on who you encounter throughout your career, your style changes and your style is influenced by those who have taught you. Currently I have a corporate pastry chef who has immense knowledge on ingredients, and seasonality and has just taught me this vast amount in such a short period of time.
How does that manifest itself?
Right now my style is using seasonal ingredients, trying to incorporate things that have less production, so things that are less processed and things that are very fresh...My key goal that I stick to in creating something is use less than five components on a dish, keep it very simple and if it's very simple and the flavors are very good, it's golden. ...I've found that if things have too many components, something will get lots.
It's the experience, stupid. Going out and having a dining experience is exactly that - having an experience. So you shouldn't just be eating when you dine out, you should be experiencing what the chef wants to come through on the plate...I come out to tables and talk to people all the time about what they want because I'm here to make them happy and have this be the perfect meal every meal.
Back to basics.
I don't think food should be trendy. It should be satisfying, I think it should be something that the consumer enjoys but the chef also likes preparing.
What do you do in your free time?
I actually just bought a house downtown so we're restoring a historic house...I love photography...I love to travel, I love going to different restaurants...It's always interesting to see how others in the same profession do the same job as you.
Favorite breakfast place?
Matt's Big Breakfast..They have these...I think they're called griddle cakes or corn cakes, and they're just so simple. I don't like heavy sauces I don't like excess things on the plate, I like things very simple and very clean.
The perfect sandwich.
I watched this scene in a movie one time, Spanglish, where the chef...makes this perfect sandwich. So they show him in the kitchen and it's a fired egg sandwich, I think there's turkey and bacon and lettuce, and so he slices the sandwich and the yolk just goes all over...I just thought 'wow that's the perfect scene in a movie,' where you push all this energy into making just your lunch, just a sandwich. Sometimes things should be like that ...just as I'm trying to make all these consumers happy and all of our regulars happy, I should be able to make myself happy as well when I cook for myself.
Zen and the art of pastry making.
Sometimes you're working with something and your thoughts carry over and you create something new, and you may never use the same component again and you may never go back, because that's who you were yesterday and today you want to bring something new to the forefront...Even after the dish is created, you always think about it and it's constantly changing, and so you as a person are constantly evolving...Something should never be good enough.
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Check back tomorrow for Chef Arroyo's recipe for Santa Monica Strawberries