CHEF STEPHANIE SCALESE
Chef Stephanie started her career by attending Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI to study Baking and Pastry Arts. Along with a semester abroad at Florence University of the Arts in Italy. During her 4 years at Johnson and Wales, Stephanie interned at The Reeds at Shelter Haven in NJ. As well as Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in NYC.
Next, Stephanie moved to Nashville,TN to work in the hotel world under Romain Fournel at the JW Marriott. While here she worked the line at Michelin Star Chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak. Stephanie learned in depth the inner workings of hotel life from 1000 person events, 400 covers at dinner service , a French style bake shop and so much more. She spent three years here honing her organizational skills while perfecting the craft of elegant and delicate, yet large scale production of desserts. Following that she joined the opening team at W Nashville. While here Stephanie had a hand in developing the bread program. And after a year at the W, Stephanie was promoted to Pastry Chef and hit the ground running. She oversaw desserts and pastries for Barista Parlor, PROOF, WetDeck, Living Room Bar, The Dutch & Carne Mare ( Michelin Star Andrew Carmellini’s restaurants) as well as all banquets, in room dining and the hotels custom amenity program.
Chef Stephanie’s current endeavor is being a part of a new chef driven concept focusing on quality through transparency. She will be the Executive Pastry Chef for Burger and Grain, a restaurant opening up in the Nations neighborhood in Nashville, TN. It will be an open kitchen concept that puts you in the middle of the interaction with the chef and culinary team. Her draw to this position was that the creativity and challenges are endless. Chef will have the ability to change the menu as she sees fit, focusing on seasonal and local ingredients to give you an elevated dessert experience. Her goal, as any pastry chef… is to make sure you always leave room for dessert! Stay tuned and follow along at her instagram or @bugerandgrain to stay updated and check them out when they open!
What inspired you to enter the world of pastry?
Growing up desserts and food was how my family showed love. If it was a birthday or holiday my grandma and mom were always baking and cooking away. EVERY meal ended with some sort of sweet treat. My first job at a bakery is where turning my hobby into a career began – after that I was hooked and knew I couldn’t do anything else.
Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
From my peers, local chefs and what I see in the community! Currently its nostalgic flavors and turning childhood favorites into composed items! I love to see the reaction on everyone’s faces as they recognize those flavors and the place it takes them back to is an unmatched feeling!
Who in your life has been the biggest mentor/inspiration in your career?
That would have to be my parents and my grandma. Without them sharing their love of food, I wouldn’t be here doing what I do. But I think the biggest inspiration comes from my peers. I remember working in NYC and coming into work as an intern hearing the cooks talk about the different restaurants they tried or staged at during the week. It is something that always stuck with me and has kept me eager to try new things and never lose that spark! Aside from that just having conversations with my team and seeing how we can be better, make the flavors pop, change the décor is just constantly inspiring and motivating.
How is your team responding to the new realities of the world during and eventually post-COVID-19?
We are constantly learning to pivot, and our problem-solving skills have quadrupled. Our hotel opened mid pandemic, so we have seen the highs and lows. But all in all, it showed us that the need for good food is always going to be there. And whatever happens, we are here to create those experiences and memories.
What Social Responsibility/Community initiative are you the most proud of taking part in?
When I first moved to Nashville I began fostering dogs/cats through the Nashville Humane Association. I am proud to be able to temporarily help an animal in need and transition it into its forever home. NHA is a staple in the community. They work to protect homeless, adoptable, and at-risk pets in Nashville, throughout middle Tennessee and across the globe. I have, what NHA calls foster failed…I fostered then adopted my kitty; Jetta. Then most recently adopted my puppy; Harley through NHA. And when I have the chance; volunteer my time to set up food bags ,help organize the donations or donate any supplies I no longer need, or my pets have outgrown!
What are your hopes for the future of the world of food and pastry?
I hope that we keep learning from each other and continue to break boundaries. To show that pastry is a huge staple and part of the culinary experience that’s here to stay!
What should the role of the food/pastry industry be in the community? The world? The environment?
Food & pastry should be a part of what shapes the community, sets the standard and brings together local and global influences to make something great. The culinary world must do better about educating people how much work, dedication and sacrifice goes into this career, from coffee shops to large resorts. It truly takes a village to create memorable food experiences for everyone to enjoy.
What is your earliest dessert memory?
I honestly have countless memories, but one of my favorites is my grandma for Easter would make a vanilla sponge cake with raspberry jam and a marshmallow icing! The BEST part about this cake, was the longer it sat the better it tasted! Another one that I can’t leave out is my mom would suddenly disappear with a smile. And she would be in the kitchen cooking us up bananas foster! Its crazy to say my first introduction to elegant table side service was my own mother in our home on Long Island.
If you could pass one bit of insight down to a chef just getting their start, what would it be?
Where do I begin… organization is HUGE. If you don’t plan out your day or even week that will lead to disaster. Start your week by slowing down, setting up a plan and conquering it. I would also say patience is key! Your time will come, keep learning and growing. Work at as many restaurants, bakeries or hotels as possible. Use that knowledge and see what you love in this pastry- verse and go there!
What is your favorite perk of the Cercle V program?
I am new to the program however, from seeing pastry chef friends and mentors be a part of the program. I would say the classes, being able to attend l’École in Brooklyn, NY to be able to learn to new techniques is huge. Also, the ability to be connected and network with other pastry chefs!
When & how did you hear about Valrhona for the first time? / When & how did your “relationship” with Valrhona start?
Majority of the kitchens I have worked in used Valrhona in one way or another. But my relationship really started with Valrhona when my chef Romain Fournel became a part of Cercle V. So, I saw firsthand all of the products and perks!
Steph or my personal favorite from my cooks; Chefanie
Celsius or Fahrenheit?
Favorite Valrhona Chocolate?
Everything on the inspiration line! But if I had to pick; Yuzu. Its bright and refreshing!
ABC Cocina- NYC | The Optimist – Nashville, TN
Favorite flavor pairing with chocolate?
Passionfruit with Jivara!
Go to snack?
Yogurt and Nutella but if were going guilty pleasure… its salt and vinegar chips and the entire bag will be gone.
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee alllllllll the way
Favorite kitchen tool?
Torch, Mini off set and a good playlist!
Who do you follow on social media?
Too many to name them all but my staples for inspiration would be…
Favorite type of dessert to make? To eat?
Favorite to make would be bon bons, you can pack so many flavors into a small bite! To eat would hands down have to be ice cream; any kind and any flavor, just bring me the spoon!