e met up with Laura Godfrey, the pastry chef at Arcadia Farms in mid-afternoon, a relatively calm time in the bakeshop, after a bustling morning of production. Laura moved from Flagstaff to Phoenix to attend culinary school. Her perfectionist traits define the beautiful pastries she so carefully creates for Arcadia' customers.
What was your path to heading Arcadia Farms' esteemed bakeshop?
I never really found my niche in high school. I struggled with classes until I took a baking/culinary program. We operated a restaurant as part of the program. My instructor opened my eyes to the possibilities of a career in baking. I enjoyed what I did in class so much; I would go home and bake. I had found something that I excelled at. I competed in the C-CAP events, and took a Gold medal, winning a small scholarship to culinary school.
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I came to Phoenix, from Flagstaff, and attended Scottsdale Culinary Institute. I love to make people happy with dessert. I love the creativity and the joy that comes from eating a treat. After graduating from SCI in '03, I went to work at Roaring Fork and then Ganache This.
What inspires you in the bakeshop?
I am definitely inspired by the clientele and their expectations at Arcadia Farms. The ladies who lunch, the special occasions celebrated, our clientele wants a little splurge. Our desserts are dainty, mini, bite size, so there is always room for dessert.
My family, and my husband give me a lot of encouragement. My husband believes in me, wants me to do well. We have a 19- month old daughter. I am excited about the holiday cookie baking and making gingerbread houses with my family.
I get inspired by unusual ingredients, unusual fruits. I look at food and wonder-how can I use this ingredient? How can I incorporate it into a dessert? Can it be used as a garnish? And chocolate, who doesn't like chocolate in dessert?
What is you food style or food attitude?
Using local ingredients, and food that is fun. I look for balance in flavors, I want my desserts to have clean, interesting flavor. I am aiming for perfection on the plate; I like clean, elegant lines, especially in the structure of cake.
I enjoy bringing together all the components of dessert on a plate to create beauty: the dessert itself, the garnish and the sauce. I learned from Chefs Robert McGrath and Patrick Boll the importance of fine tuning and perfecting a dish. How important it is to be precise, and to keep experimenting with a recipe, the balance of flavor from ingredients, to create something memorable. My passion is cake decorating. If I had a bakery business it would specialize in cakes and wedding cakes.
Are there other chefs who have influenced your work?
I met Tracy Dempsey while working at Arcadia Farms. When you are a pastry chef, the work can be very isolating, usually you work in a space separated from the rest of the kitchen, you come in earlier than the rest of the kitchen staff, and you leave earlier. Tracy is someone I work through ideas with and bounce ideas off of. She pushes me to stretch and gives me confidence to follow through with my ideas.
What do you do when you are not baking?
I am at home with my family. As soon as I get home, I start cooking! I do enjoy making savory dishes after baking all day. My husband is also a chef; I met him when we worked at Roaring Fork.
What do like to cook at home?
We like to grill. My daughter eats everything. My favorite meal is Chilean Sea Bass with a tomato mushroom sauce, some roasted fennel and potatoes with cream sauce. I also like to cook duck. If we have friends over we will do ribs or a spread of appetizers.
Advise to home bakers?
Learn about ingredients, how they behave with other ingredients, and how to use them to get the best results. Baking ingredients that used to be hard to get for consumers are now in all the groceries.
Authentic flavors are important, use pure extracts; they don't leave strange aftertastes like the imitations do. Use the best quality chocolates in your baking, Callebaut, Valrhona, Lindt, or Sharffenberger. For bread baking, use fresh yeast, its alive, ready to go, easier to work with, and it delivers better flavor.
Read a recipe before you begin working. So many recipes are missing ingredients or instructions. Learn baking methods and what they mean, the proper method can make the difference in texture and final outcome of a recipe. Be precise in your measurements and methods.
Advise to aspiring pastry chefs/ bakers?
Be confident. Remember everything is possible. Learn the guidelines and rules of baking. Learn to step back and look at your work with a critical eye. My philosophy is if something doesn't work to keep tweaking. Be confident. Remember everything is possible.
Who would you like to spend a day in the kitchen with?
First would be Rachael Ray, her show is generic but she appears well rounded and down to earth. Julia Child, I love that she could make a mess, be a mess, appear to have no structure in the kitchen, and make great food. There was such realness to her, and she always is having a good time. Martha Stewart, she appears down to earth but is so focused and her work can be so intricate. She is very detailed oriented which makes her work distinguished.
If you had to pick another career what would it be?
Interior design, it requires the same visual skills I use in my work. It is hands on and creative. Just like when I work with a dessert concept, with design concepts first you sketch, you visualize how the concept would look, then you devolve its components, work it back.
Tomorrow Laura shares a recipe for Arcadia Farms' Key Lime Tart.
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