In 1999, after years as a social worker, Elise Fineberg entered the California Culinary Academy (CCA). Although she found social work rewarding, she wanted her life’s work to be both energizing and relaxing at the same time. In the kitchen, she feels exactly that: excited by the smells, the tastes and possibilities, and yet at the same time grounded and at home. When she began at the CCA, she was not certain which direction her new career would take. At the end of her first Baking and Pastry class, she knew. Her happiness would be found in a kitchen surrounded by sugar and chocolate.
To test her theory, she secured a job at Citizen Cake under Pastry Chef Elizabeth Falkner. Her invaluable experience there further convinced her that she would be perfectly suited and completely fulfilled by a career that would challenge her creative talents, while equally engaging her analytical skills. Within the next few years, she also added Jardinière and StarsRestaurant to her resume. Once again, she benefited from working for chefs devoted to using quality products, precise technique and passion to create unforgettable culinary experiences. In particular, Amaryll Schwertner’s deep knowledge of spices and dedication to the craft influenced her growth as a young pastry cook. In Austin, Texas, she had the experience of working as the pastry chef for Emilia’s, a fine dining restaurant. Her tenure as there delighted her, as she had her first real taste of shaping recipes and pastry menus that reflected her own palate and style.
Fineberg missed not only the amazing products available in the Bay Area, but also cooking in a town with a well-developed palate. She also savors the talented chefs in the area by whom she is inspired daily whether she is eating out, hearing about someone else’s dining experience or browsing a menu posted outside a restaurant’s door. After returning to San Francisco, she worked part-time for Taste Catering, a company that she had heard regarded their pastry performance as equally important as their savory performance. In addition, she worked briefly as the pastry chef at Incanto.
In August 2003, fortune took a lovely turn and her part-time pastry position with Taste Catering turned into a more long-term commitment when she became the Executive Pastry Chef. She is thrilled to be a part of a catering company that takes dessert every bit as a seriously as she does. Fineberg is now the pastry chef at Prospect, where her Prospect Popcorn draws diners in nightly.