Title: Pastry chef at Interim Restaurant & Bar.
Hometown: Clarksdale, Miss.
Who or what was your first cooking influence? I was really fortunate. I grew up with a lot of cooks. Both grandmothers and my mom are really awesome cooks. My grandmother is 84 and still for Christmas she makes a feast. She makes cute little squash boats with creamed spinach and breadcrumb crust. ... She hollows out the insides so they're like little cups. … And oysters Rockefeller that we fight over. And then my mom makes Lebanese food.
How did you get into baking? My mom never baked. She really doesn't like desserts so much. She'll eat them. She's just not a baker. There's just such a difference between a baker and a cook. Baking is more fun to me. It's a job. It's really precise.
What was the first thing you ever cooked or baked?Probably just scrambled eggs in the kitchen with my mom.
When did you decide to become a chef? I went to Ole Miss. I went through a couple of majors. I was marketing and then art. And then I finished in hospitality. ... There's a place right outside of Oxford called Castle Hill. I was randomly there on a Sunday. It's a bed-and-breakfast, too. I started talking to the chef just casually, and he went to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in New York. His wife was with him. They were so passionate about it and loved it, and I thought, "That would be so neat to really do that as a profession, cook for people and make things out of nothing and just share your heart and love for people with food." … I went to culinary school, the Cordon Bleu in Paris.
What is something a fellow chef taught you? I was assistant pastry chef to Dwayne Ingraham (at City Grocery in Oxford). He taught me so many things. I'd never be able to do my job now. … He showed me how to slice things perfectly, how to use a cake stand, (how to make) the American (wedding) cake.
What do you cook at home, if anything? I'm always playing around at home. We (she and her husband) made fresh pasta last week. He's a big griller .... I try to stay out of the way 'cause I tend to be controlling in the kitchen. I don't mean to be. I love working with him in the kitchen, and he loves critiquing stuff. His opinion is really valuable to me.
What is your favorite food? My other grandmother, my mom's mom, used to make the best fried chicken. She dipped it in buttermilk before she floured it. It was the perfect amount of flour and cornmeal. We could never make it the same. It had just extra-greasy skin that was perfect.
What is your least favorite food? I don't like anything fake. I don't really enjoy Velveeta or something like that.
Interim Restaurant & Bar, 5040 Sanderlin; 901-818-0821.