Hotel Pastry Chef Meg Galus of Café des Architectes at Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
Café des Architectes at Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
20 East Chestnut Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Meg Galus began her culinary career as a pint-sized, pretend chef-owner in her Illinois home, drafting daily menus, cooking, and enforcing a strict “no dine-and-dash” policy at the family dinner table. Although seemingly destined for bona fide chef-hood, Galus first graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts before graduating from The French Pastry School in Chicago in 2005. By then she was eager to pursue her career as a pastry chef. And Galus has a way of making her dreams a reality.
Galus stepped into sweets hard, first at Vanille Patisserie in Chicago for two years and then for three years as the pastry chef at Tru, where she honed her technique under Chicago pastry pillar Gale Gand. Galus’ work began to draw attention: in addition to her nomination for a Jean Banchet Best Rising Pastry Chef Award in 2009 and 2010, she was a featured guest chef on Holland America Cruise Lines and also was invited to conceptualize and execute the desserts and mignardises at a James Beard dinner featuring Tru chefs.
Galus joined Sofitel Chicago Water Tower in June 2010 as executive pastry chef. Galus manages pastry for banquets, catering services, and room service, as well as the hotel’s modern French restaurant, Café des Architectes. An admitted perfectionist, Galus would contentedly while away the hours crafting macaroons or tempering chocolates. And her belief that “pastry sustains the soul” means that she’s not content until she’s hit the right combination of French technique, comforting familiarity, and the joy of surprise with her pastry.
Interview with Pastry Chef Meg Galus of Cafe des Architectes - Chicago ILAntoinette Bruno: Your desserts are so creative. What is your creative process like? Do ideas ever creep in from odd places?
Meg Galus: OK, here’s an example. This is really funny. I was in Bath and Body Works, and they had a lotion called “Midnight Vanilla” or something. The flavors were cassis and vanilla, and I thought that that sounded delicious. This dessert started out and, for the first few weeks, we would sell one a night. Then, all of a sudden, the servers kind of picked up on it, and now it's one of our top sellers. One of the servers from Tru came over to have lunch, and when he saw it when it came out he said, "Oh, it's a Meg plate!"
AB: What are some of your favorite flavor combinations?
MG: I love olive oil and chocolate and salt.
AB: What’s the secret to working in this kind of environment?
MG: Attitude is 85 percent of the job. You can’t teach that. Or people skills. Playing in the sandbox with others.
AB: How would you describe the guests?
MG: It’s an international set. Not a ton of kids, definitely an older crowd. Not many 30-somethings with kids in general. Restaurants have a lot of good regulars. Also a lot of different guests. We do three-courses for $32, a "Neighborhood and Friends Menu." It goes crazy those nights. We do them twice a week. Oh, and we do lots of birthday breakfasts.
AB: What kind of fun can you have on the menus?
MG: We did a Basque menu for a week over the summer. And then in summer and fall we did several regions of France; we talked about Normandy, we did French Caribbean and Basque regions. We have a lot of regular diners who come in from the neighborhood. It's nice to give them something special.
AB: So you feel like you can introduce your guests to something different?
MG: We like to educate our staff and our guests on French cuisine; it's one of the things I really love about this place and being here—really getting into French food.
AB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
MG: Moving from fine dining into hotel has been such a huge change. It’s opening more doors for me, even in my own mind, about what I might be cooking.
AB: Do you think you’ll be changing direction anytime soon?
MG: Certainly. For five years I was at Tru, and I see more options now. I think I find myself enjoying a lot of things about hotels that I didn't think I would. Creatively there's a different kind of challenge, like doing a plated dessert for 300 people. There are tiny little detail things, being able to do this Parisian dessert tray on a daily basis, it just makes me kind of happy. What I really want are rows and rows of perfect little macaroons. I want to get a truck with a giant revolving macaroon on top. I wish I'd done it two years ago, with perfect lines of little macaroons inside.