CHEF JULIE ELKIND
What inspired you to enter the world of pastry?
For some, there is one defining moment when they know exactly what they are meant to do. For me, it is many moments. When I was little my family was bonded together by food and the experience of preparing a meal to enjoy together. It was in the moments when I would bake a cake with my grandmother and I got to crack the eggs and lick the bowl. When my mom would spend time after school as a child and bake just for fun. What I really came to realize was when all the baking was done, I could share with it other people. It was the looks on their faces of reward and complete escape to a place of momentary happiness when they took that first bite. In those moments I realized that what I thought was just a simple gesture of giving a pastry to someone I love could be much more and bring joy to many others. I could share my infatuation with pastries on a much larger stage and make people’s lives a little sweeter.
Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
Food memories are the foundation of my cooking. I want to have an emotional response to what I eat. I want to remember the smells and taste of happy times past. I used to spend some summers at my Grandparents house in Quechee Vermont picking blueberries, baking pies and making jams with my gram. She has since passed but these are some of my fondest memories. Now every summer I put a blueberry dessert on my menu in some form that transports me back to my summers as a kid. I can't tell you how many people have shared their similar stories and how it brought them a familiar happiness. Everyone’s got a story, I just prefer to bake and eat mine.
Who in your life has been the biggest mentor/inspiration in your career?
In my career as a pastry chef in terms of the people that have shaped me into the professional I am today I would give the credit to the people that pushed me and took the time to teach me the importance of each step of the process. From the savory chefs introducing me and inspiring me with fruits and vegetables I had never seen or used before. It's very important to have allies and people to look up to in this business that support me with kindness, respect me, and recognize my value. Markus Glocker has been the catalyst in my career thus far and reminded regularly how capable I was. If I worked smart and focused on the task at hand I could achieve anything I wanted. Every steppingstone matters. Every failure matters. They are opportunities to be better than yesterday and today is an opportunity to be better tomorrow. Lead with Kindness and purpose and the doors will open themselves for you.
What are your hopes for the future of the world of food and pastry?
Where the world is right now I just hope everyone can find a job in pastry as well as chefs having the ability to staff enough people. It can be tough out there. The industry has made some great changes in providing a less toxic work environment but there is always more work to be done. Us chefs have a responsibility to keep making positive changes. We need to create careers over jobs. Create and mold the next generation of chefs. If we do a good job with that the next generation of chefs should be better, kinder, more balanced and happier as their career progresses. We should all lead with empathy and kindness. We are making food. Pastry chefs cure sadness with sweets top create joy. We can’t sell the product if we don’t exercise the outcome ourselves.
What should the role of the food/pastry industry be in the community? The world? The environment?
Sustainability and lowering food waste. Find a partnership with a food bank and donate food that you would otherwise waste. Dessert is an amenity. Everyone deserves to eat and never go hungry but they also deserve something special and sweet. Food waste is such a messy business with a simple solution. Order smart. Cook smart. Donate extra product or cook for your less fortunate community.
If you could pass one bit of insight down to a chef just getting their start, what would it be?
As a professional I try to not focus on " should ‘a Would ‘a Could ‘a." However, knowing what I know now I would say to slow down. To take the time to learn from the best as long as possible. Create trust and reliability by showing up and using every opportunity to learn and contribute.
What is your favorite perk of the Cercle V program?
The ability to send my cooks to the school to learn and grow their ability from more chefs outside of myself. Its important to see and learn from more than just one person. Growing skills and knowledge is a beautiful thing in this field and can inspire new and brilliant ideas at whatever level you my be cooking at.
When & how did you hear about Valrhona for the first time? / When & how did your “relationship” with Valrhona start?
I used Valrhona since my first job at Le cirque in 2007. It was one of the first chocolates I was introduced to and it was love at first sight. I have used it ever since as my primary chocolate. It is a gluttonous, sexy, elegant love affair. The care and attention to detail that the brand provides is extraordinary. Its both care for the product and those producing the chocolate as well as the chefs using it by supporting and providing a broad wealth of knowledge and resources. Consistency and reliability keep this relationship strong and life long.
Celsius or Fahrenheit?
Favorite Valrhona Chocolate?
Manjari as my staple and the fruit inspiration feves. *Chefs kiss*
Impossible question. Depends what mood I am in! There are far too many fabulous restaurants in NYC to possibly have one.
Favorite flavor pairing with chocolate?
Passionfruit, nuts (too many options to pick one), caramel
Go to snack?
Sourdough pretzels, cheez-its
Coffee or Tea?
Both equally perfect.
Favorite kitchen tool?
Olfa Blade, small offset spatula, offset tweezers
Who do you follow on social media?
Pastry peers, restaurants, VALRHONA, pastry arts magazine, plate magazine, amazinmetsfood!
Favorite type of dessert to make? To eat?
I love to make tarts. They are the perfect dessert to me! And I LOVE to eat doughnuts and ice cream