This week, we meet Chef Shelly Register of A Restaurant and Market in Newport Beach.
Typically, bakers are strong at either breads or pastries, but not both. The French make a linguistic distinction between these specialty shops: pâtisseries sell pastries, and boulangeries bake bread. Chef Shelly Register has excelled at both for decades, baking for renowned (and now closed) Orange County restaurants owned by Tim and Liza Goodell, including Village Bakery, The Lodge, Aubergine, and Troquet.
What's your job title?
Where did you train as a pastry chef?
On the job. I went to school for culinary [arts], not pastry.
What was your first restaurant job?
Fry girl at Jimmy Johnsons at the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach.
Most bakers excel at breads or pastries, but not both. How did you become ambidextrous, so to speak?
I had no choice. My first job as a pastry chef was working for the Goodells at Troquet. It was important for them to have everything made in-house. So I made the plated desserts as well as the bread.
Are you still selling wholesale? Where else besides A Restaurant and Market can we find your breads and pastries?
No, no wholesale and no bread. Baked goods and pastries can be found only at A Restaurant and Market. I do miss my bread, though.
Any chance of your breads coming to A Market?
I most likely won't be introducing bread at the market. Unfortunately, I don't have the space or the equipment.
If you weren't a chef, what job would you want?
Professional ballroom dancer.
What are six words to describe your food?
Flavor-driven, wholesome, clean, soulful, rustic, inspired.
What are ten words to describe you?
Honest, energetic, sassy, picky, committed, hard-working, passionate, fair, driven, funny.
Your best recent food find:
Mendon Creamery cinnamon sugar butter. It's like cinnamon toast, only much better. I had always carried the Mendon maple butter until there was a maple shortage, and it was no longer available.
What's the most undervalued ingredient?
What are the rules of conduct in your kitchens?
One food you detest:
One food you can't live without:
Bacon! Just push me off a cliff...
If you were food dictator for a day, and could force everyone to eat one thing, what would it be?
What don't savory chefs understand about your craft?
Small details...it's very exacting.
What doesn't the public understand about your craft?
We don't magically whip things up...some things take time and planning.
What's a myth about pastry you'd like to debunk?
That anyone can do it. Pastry chefs are the first to go when things get tough. I can always tell when a restaurant is putting out "kitchen desserts."
What's the most challenging pastry creation you've ever pulled off, and why was it difficult?
Having to recreate my desserts in Melbourne, Australia. The ingredients are so different. I was a wreck and at some point the entire fire department showed up to the hotel. It definitely took some getting used to.
Do you have a favorite food creation at the moment?
Our Chicago-style hot dog.
What's your best culinary tip for the home baker?
Mise en place.
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What's your after-work hangout?
A Market, 3400 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 650-6515; www.arestaurantnb.com