Interview with Pastry Chef Angela Tustin of Circa and Plate – Philadelphia, PA

May , 2004

Pamela Lewy: : What is your philosophy on baking?
Angela Tustin: I don’t always follow a recipe all the time. I think many times, pastry chefs are afraid to try something if it's not written down for them. Sometimes desserts turn out better when you experiment. It’s more fun to approach baking as a cook would; creating dishes on a whim. You should not be afraid to play around and many times, pastry chefs are scared to do this.

PL: Why do you think that is?

AT: I think pastry is commonly viewed as scientific and this prevents people from monkeying around. Coming from a culinary background makes a difference. I went to culinary school first and then switched my major 2 months into my schooling. At Four Seasons, I did pastry, but I also helped out doing garde manger. Cooking can often transfer to baking. Pastry chefs are starting to use more herbs in their desserts, and that’s a start, but sometimes you need to cook too.

PL: Who are your mentors/pastry heroes?

AT: En-Ming Hsu from The Ritz Carlton, Chicago. She does amazing work and she’s a girl, which is unusual in this industry. I also admire Eddie Hales at the Four Seasons. He’s a workhorse. He has taught me a great work ethic and great pastry technical skills.

PL: What pastry or kitchen tools can’t you live without? Why?

AT: Long Spatula, 10 inch cake icing spatula. I practically use it as a third, super-flexible hand.

PL: What are your favorite ingredients?

AT: I like to use ingredients normally not associated with desserts like fennel and fresh herbs. You also can’t beat fresh fruit. I particularly like using pineapple because of its versatility and prickly pears for their great color. I also like using fine quality chocolate.

PL: What are your top tips for dessert success?

AT: Use good quality products like good chocolate. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try new things like mixing fruits with herbs. Pastry chefs should also be interested and willing to try to cook savory dishes as well. This really makes a difference.

PL: What are your favorite desserts?
AT: I love strawberry cheesecake and classic chocolate cakes.

PL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

AT: I would like to work in hotels again, where there are so many different things going on. I miss making pastries like petit fours and croissants. Hotel menus are more versatile and it's more than just plated desserts.

PL: In ten years?

AT: I don’t really have a desire to run my own business because there is always so much to stay on top of, but I can see myself owning my own café a long time from now, when I am much older.