Interview with 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Pastry Chef Chrysta Poulos

June 2012

Katherine Sacks: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Chrysta Poulus: Well I was in the military before, and I was a mechanic on B1B bombers. I had worked as a cook before and I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got out. I started waiting tables, and I really enjoyed helping out in the kitchen so I enrolled at the Art Institute. And that’s where it all started.

KS: Who are some of your mentors, and what have you learned from them?
CP: Definitely Linton Hopkins. His dedication to using local ingredients and his passion for Southern cuisine. And Kevin Gillespie basically for the same reasons. I worked with Taria Camerino, and she is really dedicated to using unprocessed sugars and unrefined things. I really respect that about her. And she’ll go out into the city and do urban foraging; she puts a lot of her self into her food.

KS: What are the three most important skills that you think a pastry chef needs?
CP: Organization, patience, and passion for what you do. It definitely comes through in what you make; I think you can taste it. If you don’t love what you do, I think you can taste it.

KS: Where do your desserts come from? What's your creative process?
CP: Sometimes it will stem from walking through a store and seeing a dish, other times it’s looking through books and seeing inspiration. It varies from dish to dish. The last one I put on my menu, I really wanted something super chocolaty, and I always like to have a good balance of textures, so I wanted to make sure all the textures are covered.

KS: What is your style as a pastry chef?
CP: I kind of like to make people reminisce about childhood. I like to make what people ate when they were younger, to evoke some sort of memory, that’s always a good thing.

KS: If you weren't a pastry chef, what would you be and why?
CP: Probably a photographer. I love taking pictures. I recently discovered Instagram, and I’ve been taking photos of what I do at work. I do drawing and painting, and I think it really helps when it comes to plating.

KS: Where will we find you in five years?
CP: I don’t know, maybe not in this country. I don’t really know what I want to be doing. I love working for chef-driven restaurants, I love to travel, but I don’t know if I want to stay in Atlanta. I want to learn all I can, that’s the only way I can continue keep growing.