Interview with 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Chef Mellisa Root

May 2013

Katherine Sacks: What made you interested in becoming a pastry chef?
Mellisa Root: My mother. I was all bent on going into forensic science, and she said ‘Oh honey, I really think you will miss out, I think you should be a pastry chef.’ When I was 8 I started to cook and started to really enjoy it. I would take my bicycle, ride 6 miles to the library to read cookbooks. Julia Child was the most instrumental in my love for baking.

KS: How do you describe your style?
MR: I describe my style as whimsical when I do line up for the wait staff. I always say it’s a play on this or that. I try to have fun. I sacrifice so much to do this, I want to have fun doing it.  

KS: What are your responsibilities as hotel pastry chef?
MR: I plan and develop the pastry program for the banquet menu, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and breaks. It includes bread, viennoiserie, pastry, dessert, confections, and bonbons.  I have implemented a very happening Wedding Cake program during my tenure as well as a chocolate program.  I also plan and develop the dessert and bread program for Madera restaurant, In Room Dining, the Pool, the Lounge, the amenity program, and the Spa.

KS: Why do you like working in a hotel?
MR: I enjoy being a hotel pastry chef because I get to direct my energies onto multiple projects. I don't just focus on plated dessert; I get to create showpieces, chocolates, breads, pastries, wedding cakes. The list is endless, it keeps me really motivated and excited about what to work on next. The arena to be creative and to express my vision is huge in a hotel!

KS: How do you inspire staff?
MR: I try to inspire my staff by being forthright and hard working.  I try to lead by example, and I hope I am showing them the way to be strong, independent pastry chefs who are in touch with their point of view and not afraid to express it!

KS: What are the three keys to pastry success?
MR: A sense of urgency, creativeness, and organization for sure. If you aren't organized, you can't get it done.

KS: What is the most challenging thing you have done?
MR: The culinary Olympics. Four years I was on the regional team; usually you have four years to prepare, but the team kicked out a national pastry chef and replaced the spot with me. I was on a team with four other master chefs; I was the underdog and I carried one-third of the weight in pastry points. It was a lot of pressure to not ruin their dreams, to rise to the pressure, which I totally did. I got gold, we got gold as a team, I held my end of the bargain.

KS: Where will we find you in five years?
MR: I would love to have my own place in five years. I want to do a chocolate shop, my husband is a chef as well, and want three businesses together, a gastro pub, a chocolate shop, and a 2 star Michelin restaurant. That’s the game plan.