Page 47 - Pastry & Baking Magazine

What’s your relationship like with the executive chef?
It’s great! Our Chef Percy Whatley is a Bocuse d’Or
candidate and the ACF Western Regional Chef champion,
so it’s great to work in his company. We’ve worked together
almost four years and he’s always been very supportive of
my ideas. I always present ideas and if he sees something he
doesn’t think fits, he’s very open about telling me, as well as
giving me feedback about seasonality and ingredients that
will be available throughout the year. Here, versus when I
worked in Hawaii where it was tropical ingredients available
all year, we can get so much more variety in terms of fruits
and other products.
How does the creative process generally work for you?
When I start creating a new dish, I first think: what is the
season? What is available now? Is this organic and/or
naturally-grown? I compose a dessert by the imaginary taste
and presentation until I can execute it to taste it. I’ll start
writing down the ideas first and then I create it by myself to
taste and tweak things along the way. During the process of
creating the dish, I write down each step and then once I’m
happy with it I let the staff taste and critique it.
In hiring new staff, what are you looking for in a
prospective employee?
A good attitude – I assess their attitude first and then look
at their background. They have to take initiative, be hard
workers and be motivated. Lastly I’ll look at their experience.
The reason for that is that I’d rather have someone with no
experience who I can mentor so they learn. From this, we
create a sense of bonding and loyalty in the creative process
because they are more open to learning new things. It makes
me proud to see my staff learn and move up the chain, as
well as when they find good jobs elsewhere. I feel that I’ve
contributed to their success.
Describe your management style?
Crazy! I have and encourage open, two-way
communication with my staff. I want them to have an
opinion and be honest with me. I am very strict on the
policies and procedures as I want my staff to follow all
of the details. I’m a perfectionist and I expect that of my
staff as well. I hate shortcuts and I have not tolerance for
that. “Be good to me, I’ll be good to you” is my motto. I
love them and I have patience for teaching and training
my staff. I’m not a sheet pan thrower, although I certainly
experienced that in my culinary career.
What seasonal ingredients do you like to incorporate
into your dishes?
Exotic ingredients and different spices. I like to incorporate
them into the sweet flavor profile of a dish. Right now, I’ve
got some tropical fruits like passion fruit, banana and mango
going on the menu. I love the sour-sweet flavor combination
as well as the diversity in texture. Some of the spices I like
are different types of peppers, such as guajillo pepper in my
How often to you re-vamp/create new dishes?
A lot – we always make quarterly changes because of the
season and I also do daily specials where I get to play around. I
also let my staff create daily specials.
Ahwahnee’s Great Lounge