Rising Star Pastry Chef Christina Longo of Taverna San Marco - Biography

Jacksonville, FL

November 2011

Contrary to popular belief, pastry chefs don’t always have a sweet tooth. In the case of Pastry Chef Christina Longo, her siblings were surprised by her career choice as she was always the first to pass on dessert as a child. Growing up in an Italian-American family where home cooked food was delicious and plentiful, her mom’s kitchen was her castle, and Christina didn’t get much culinary training there, aside from helping to garnish Christmas cookies or drying dishes.

In the early 90’s, the restaurant climate in Central Florida was not particularly hospitable towards women in the kitchen, which forced Longo into front of the house positions with weak promises from chefs to work her into the kitchen in the future. Through a series of jobs in Florida, Washington D.C. and New York, she was able to build a stronger cooking foundation. Inspired at this point in her life, Longo was looking for a city with a developing food scene and good culinary schools. Seattle beckoned.

Somewhere between the East and West Coasts, she began thinking of a new career direction – baking and pastry. After a few months of temporary banquet cooking, Christina found a position with a start-up business trying to bring an Italian trattoria-style to Seattle. Here she found a mentor in the pastry chef who encouraged her to enroll in the Pastry Arts program at Seattle Central Community College.

While in school, she was presented with a chance to stage at a patisserie in St. Germain-en-Laye, France. Over the next three months, Christina worked at the Patisserie Grandin and was exposed to a style of pastry radically different from what she saw in Seattle.

Upon returning to the Northwest in 2001, Christina was hired as pastry chef at the Barking Frog, which provided a forum for expression she had not seen in the past, where she won a 2003 StarChefs.com Rising Stars Award. She then returned home to Southern Florida to become the pastry chef at Taverna San Marco. Longo sees her palate and style continuing to evolve and going back to her Mediterranean roots and upbringing in tropical Florida. Her training was transformed by the French appreciation for the art of patisserie. According to Longo, “It’s an appreciation for the simple ingredients of the pastry kitchen, especially fresh fruits at the height of their season, and for techniques that transform them into edible art, that has driven my passion. It’s the desire to find balance and pleasure throughout a meal and to reward the palate with a sweet souvenir”.