Recipe for Success: Lyndsy McDonald

 

Recipe for Success: Lyndsy McDonald

 

Date: July 9, 2014
by: Heather Merriman | Black Tie Assistant Editor

 
 

Lyndsy McDonald
Executive Pastry Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota
1111 Ritz Carlton Drive, Sarasota

Where are you from? Stephen’s Point, Wis.

When was the first time you prepared a meal for someone? I was a kid I’m sure. I started playing in the kitchen at a very young age; it was never a scary place for me.

What’s your earliest memory relating to food?
Baking with my mom. Christmas cookies in my household were a mass production, not a couple of trays. I’m talking everyone we knew got cookies.

What is your culinary background? A lot of people in my family have culinary backgrounds, so it’s been a part of me my entire life. It was kitchen prep work when I was little, busing tables and then I was about 12 when they started letting me hostess. From ages 6 to 18, I was washing dishes and peeling potatoes. It was very much a way of life for the entire family. I was 18 the first time I worked at a restaurant that wasn’t owned by my family. It was a four-star restaurant in Charleston, S.C. called Peninsula Grill. I walked in, asked for the executive chef like I knew what I was doing. I told him I was willing to do any job in his kitchen and he told me to “be here at 6 a.m. tomorrow.” When I went the next day, I didn’t even know how to get in, so I found a way in through the back door and I worked for three days before he told me if I had a job or not. I wanted to start my career off right. I then received a degree in food and beverage management from Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C.

Tell us about Pastries By Design — how you went from there to here: Pastries by Design was my dream, it was my business. I spent my whole life building it. I operated it for eight years, five years as a storefront. It was always our intention at some point to sell and move on and it was a natural change when that happened. My husband had a job lined up and I was extremely pregnant with our second child. I wanted to stay home until I found a job that was worth going back to work for. This job became available — this was the only pastry chef job for which I applied. I’ve been here for five weeks now.

Do you have any exciting things coming up?
The two most exciting things for me right now are menu developments and the gingerbread display that happens every November. I’m getting my first run on putting my own personal spin on the menu. Every pastry chef is a little different. I tend to be more of a naturalist. I like the basics and I like to stick to that. The whole concept of this resort is that too — keeping it fresh and local, utilizing the resources we have locally. It’s a part of who I am and those things transfer over into my recipes. I take the basics and make it beautiful.

I’m really excited about the gingerbread display. When I was in college, rent was difficult to pay when working in a kitchen for very little. My community complex had a holiday party and they were talking about ordering something and I say hey, I’ll make something if you switch it out for rent. So I used the kitchen and I built a gingerbread house. It came out really good and it paid my rent.

What’s your favorite thing on the menu? My favorite thing, well, my two favorite things, are custom cakes and breads. I love fresh baked bread. To choose one item, it’s like choosing a favorite child … you can’t.

If you were any food item, what would you be? Fried chicken — that’s just me. I should be classy and say something like caviar, but it’s fried chicken.

What is one of your favorite desserts to eat, besides your own?
A cheese plate over dessert anytime. I live flour, sugar and butter, so when I go out, I want something different.

Your dream customer (dead or alive) comes in — they want to meet the pastry chef — who is it? Anthony Bourdain. He has the same sarcastic sense of humor as I do.

Describe the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota with one song: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. That’s the energy here.

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