Amy Tarr: How did you get into pastry arts?
Tammy Alana: I worked for the post office as a mail handler for 5 years. I worked on big sorting machinery and ran forklifts. I joined when I was 20 and stayed until I was 25. Whenever it was someone’s birthday, I would bake a cake for them.
AT: Where did you train?
TA: I graduated from CIA Greystone in St. Helena .
AT: What restaurants have you worked in as a pastry chef?
TA: My first pastry chef position was at Bellagio, starting on the banquet team - I did mass-plated desserts. Then I switched to the restaurant team and did all the desserts for the hotel. Then on to wedding cakes at the Bellagio. Next I took the pastry chef position at Tre (owned by the Maccionis).
AT: What is your philosophy on pastry?
TA: I try to keep it simple, but I look forward to every menu change, to be creative. I’m good with change.
AT: Where do you look for inspiration?
TA: I’m always reading pastry books. And I love to dine around and see what’s going on. It keeps you motivated.
AT: Who are your pastry mentors?
TA: Frederic Robert at Wynn – he’s the corporate pastry chef for the hotel. His book’s amazing. I like to get inspiration from Richard Leach as well. How he structures his book by the seasons - he’ll take seasonal fruit and do different things with it.
AT: What pastry or kitchen tools can’t you live without?
TA: My off-set spatula. I like the 6-inch offset. I’m always using it. That’s all I need. And a good sharp knife!
AT: What are your favorite ingredients to work with?
TA: I’m big on using salt and/or lemon zest. It depends on what I’m making. They bring out the flavors of what I’m doing. And I love using seasonal fruit. My favorite is peaches.
AT: What are your favorite desserts?
TA: To make: I like to do miniatures, where you can have a few bites of this, that and the other, where you’re not disappointed by choosing one dessert. To eat: candy! Fruity, chewy candies of all varieties. That’s my fix. Plus ice cream cones and cookies.
AT: What are your top three tips for dessert success?
TA: 1) Work with quality product. 2) Match your flavors well. 3) Simple, clean plating.
AT: What’s your #1 selling dessert?
TA: Chocolate soufflé.
AT: What trends do you see emerging in pastry arts?
TA: Post-dessert complimentary petit fours. We do classic French petit fours.
AT: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
TA: This company is a really good company. Everyone is very happy and organized. I’ve really seen it grow since I’ve been here one year. And there are a couple of things in the works. I see myself in Las Vegas, unless we open in other parts of the US. I’ll be a pastry chef! I love what I do, and I hope I love it as much, if not more, in 5 years!