We recently had a chance to catch up with Executive Pastry Chef Summer Schott about her career and what’s happening in the pastry world. Summer has been a member of the Cameron Mitchell team since 2005.
You were recently promoted to executive pastry chef – what other positions have you held within the company?
I’ve been helping with menu development for some time now. I started with diner pies at Cap City and worked to add to their menu. My big break came when I was asked to develop the dessert menu for Marcella’s – that was my first time in the test kitchen and I loved every minute of it. From there I was asked to help with several reopenings and updates to other store menus – like Martini, Cameron’s and Ocean Club – later, I got to help develop The Pearl’s menu. When I opened the Pearl, I was promoted to a salary baker to cover baking for both The Pearl and Marcella’s and to continue development and training for new opening stores. I also worked in prep at Marcella’s since I have a degree to work in both baking and savory cooking.
Where did you learn your craft?
During my last two years of high school, I participated in a culinary program that allowed me to get a job while in school. After high school I earned my degree in pastry arts from the International Culinary Arts and Science Institute, and then attended Columbus State Community College where I received an associate’s degree in restaurant management. I have a strong belief in the value of life-long learning, so I’ve continued to take other courses throughout the years at Ewald Notter’s International School for Confectionary Arts and the French Pastry School in Chicago.
Did you always know you wanted to work with pastry, or did you develop the interest along the way?
I love taking care of people, and cooking or baking always seemed to make them happy, so that’s where I got my love for the industry. I also always wanted to be an artist – this is my creative outlet.
What are some exciting things going on in your world at CMR right now?
We are starting conception for a new restaurant in July. It’s a blast seeing a restaurant come together and trying out different desserts to see if they’ll fit the menu and feel of the restaurant.
What are three ingredients you always have on hand at home?
I don’t know if you’d say it’s an ingredient, but I always have frozen cookie dough in case I have last-minute guests and want to bake off a quick treat. Next I’d say brown sugar, since it’s my favorite sugar for baking. I also always have frozen bananas – I make a lot of banana bread at home.
What is your favorite dessert to make?
I love to make birthday cakes for friends and family. Getting creative with how to decorate a cake is always fun.
How about your favorite dessert to eat?
Cookies. Iced sugar cookies are my favorite.
What are the hottest trends in desserts right now?
– House-made donuts in unique flavors
– Strong chocolate flavors – even smoked chocolate
– Different varieties of puddings and custards as a stand-alone dessert or as a component of a dessert
– Vegetables in desserts, carrot cake has always been a favorite, but now we’re seeing other vegetables in cakes, pies and infused creams like parsnips, beets, sweet corn and more.
– Gluten-free desserts – or I should say great gluten-free desserts. In the past, chefs would call most gluten-free desserts ‘just okay,’ and assume there wasn’t much that could be done. Now chefs are getting more familiar with gluten-free cooking and creating amazing recipes that you might not even be able to tell are gluten free.
Which trends are on their way out?
One trend I’m happy to say is on its way out is factory processed desserts. People are becoming more conscientious of what they’re consuming and where it comes from, so if they’re going to indulge, they’ll look for it to be made in house instead of from a box. A little more obvious is the cupcakes market that got oversaturated and is fading away, followed by the frozen yogurt craze.
Are there any unusual ingredient combinations that work surprisingly well together?
One flavor that often gets overlooked in desserts is buttermilk. In a pie or cake, it can create a great sweet and lemony flavor when cooked with the sugar. I love buttermilk and blueberries.