Rising Star Pastry Chef Tova du Plessis of Essen Bakery - Biography

Philadelphia, PA

October 2019

 Born and raised in a kosher Jewish household in South Africa, Tova du Plessis spent Fridays and Saturdays baking braided challah and cooking elaborate meals for Shabbat with her family. She came to the United States to attend college, planning to pursue a career in medicine, but had a change of heart after graduating in 2009 and set off to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. After school, she externed with Rising Star alums Pastry Chef Matt Tinder and Boris Portnoy at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Yountville, ultimately securing a spot on their team and working a year and a half before the restaurant shut down for renovations. 

In the down time, she traveled to Philadelphia to stage for James Beard award-winner and Rising Stars alum Michael Solomonov, who hired du Plessis as a line cook at Zahav and a sous chef at kosher European restaurant Citron & Rose.

After a brief stint as the pastry chef at Avance, du Plessis joined The Rittenhouse Hotel in 2014 as executive pastry chef, overseeing dessert and pastry at Lacroix. After giving birth to a baby girl, du Plessis re-evaluated how and what she wanted to work on and decided to go back to her Jewish baking roots, opening Essen Bakery in 2016. The cafe focuses on Jewish breads and sweets, including challah, rye bread, and babkas, as well as daily sandwich and toast specials pulling from Jewish and Mediterranean traditions. For the past three years, Du Plessis has been nominated as a semi-finalist for the James Beard award for “Outstanding Baker”.