Chef and author Dalia Jurgensen has experienced much in her young life including working for the prestigious New York restaurants Veritas, Layla and Nobu. In between some of this she worked for Martha Stewart and lived to tell the tale. At present she is pastry chef at Dressler Restaurant in Brooklyn. To this prestigous resume she can add being interviewed by Mark and Lynn about the paperback release of Spiced: A pastry Chef's true stories of trials by fire, after hours exploits, and what really goes on in the kitchen.
M&L: What is it about being a chef that is inherently so full of ups and downs?
DJ: "I think it’s two-fold. First, when you’re starting out, you tend to switch jobs every year or so to get lots of different kinds of experience. so, with each new job comes a whole new set of people, personalities, rules, good and bad. Starting out I went from a high end Japanese restaurant to a 2-star Mediterranean to catering to a 3-star old school French—each one was a totally different experience. And then, even within a single workplace, each day consists of ups and downs: the quiet of the morning prep through the heat and adrenalin of a busy dinner service through the unwinding of the after work drinking. It definitely keeps things interesting."
M & L: What are the things that sets apart a pastry chef from other food professionals?
DJ: "First, we work in a separate area in the kitchen and most of us, are vigilant about maintaining this separation. We can’t have garlic or fish scales or meat juices running all over our custards and tarts. I wash most of my own tools just so I can make sure my spatuale doesn’t end up stirring and pot of onions and becoming permanently onion-y. And most of our work is done before the customers arrive, as opposed to between the hours of 6-10pm. Just like savory chefs, we have techniques to develop, but for the most part they’re not a la minute techniques like searing fish and cooking meat to medium rare."
M & L: Was there anything you left out of the book?
DJ: "Of course there’s lots of stuff that didn’t make it in, but I think most of it is the day to day tedium of what I do that wouldn’t be that interesting to anyone. And there are a lot of genius one liners that, while hilarious, just didn’t fit into the stories. Maybe that’ll be a different book..."
M & L: Has your taste in food and cooking changed over time or are your tastes consistent?
DJ: "I’m not sure that my tastes have changed so much as they’ve evolved. Over the years, and especially living in New York City, I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to try foods and flavors I probably never would have had I stayed at my office job. All that exploration is definitely one of my favorite parts of being a chef. As I’ve gotten more experience, I’ve gotten more confidence to try new techniques and flavor combinations, and that all helps me to keep developing my style. Again, it keeps things interesting."
M & L: Do you have a particular cocktail that you enjoy?
DJ: "Hmmm...my cocktail tastes usually depend on where I am...sitting on a beach, out on the town, at brunch. I love a good bloody mary with plenty of olives, but I also love trying whatever cocktails are specific or special to a particular establishment. I like seeing what new things people come up with."
M & L: How did you come up with the title and the design for the book cover?
DJ: "For the title, I wanted something short and to the point, that related to food and to the feeling of the book, and SPICED turned out to be the one that stood out on a long list of one word titles. For the subtitle, I just wanted to add a little more detail that accurately portrayed what the book is about, the sort of insider stuff I think is so interesting about the working in restaurants. As for the cover, I have to confess that was all in the hands of the people at Putnam and I was simply a willing accomplice!"