Interview with Rising Star Pastry Chef Rebecca Cohen of Stella! – New Orleans, LA

April 2012

Caroline Hatchett: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?

Rebecca Cohen: I love food. I've always, always loved food. My senior year in college I volunteered at South Beach Wine & Food Festival. It was the first time I worked with professionals and the first time I realized I could work in food. I moved with a friend to San Francisco and applied for jobs. I like chemistry, science, art, and design, and I have a big sweet tooth.

CH: Who are some of your mentors, and what have you learned from them?

RC: Shuna [Lydon] really shaped me as a pastry chef. I was fortunate she took me in. I was totally green. She likes to share her eclectic, hard-earned knowledge. She's a pastry veteran.

CH: Where do your desserts come from? What's your creative process?

RC: I like seasonal- and fruit-driven desserts. I start thinking of flavors to complement seasonal fruits, along with textures, sizes, colors. I think of four or five complementary flavors and about different ways I can present them to their best advantage. Some things loose flavor when you present them cold or hot. When I put a dish together, I try to balance the components visually, texturally, and flavor wise.

CH: If you could go anywhere for culinary travel, where would you go and why?

RC: Travel is the other thing in life I want to accomplish. I moved to San Francisco and saved up to see how far and long I could go before I need to start working again. I want to go to France, of course. I didn't go to school for pastry, and I feel like I'm missing that foundation.

CH: If you weren't a cook, what would you be and why?

RC: Everything. A writer. That's something farther down the line. I'd like to be a food writer. I would work with animals. I volunteer with giraffes at the zoo. Humanitarian aid. There are lots of things out there that I find fascinating. Food is something I love endlessly. I like eating and making food. Cooking for others gives me so much pleasure.