Female Chef Series

Baking Bread by the Beach

Chef Crystal White

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At a very early age, Chef Crystal White knew she wanted to be a pastry chef and bread maker. After training with the best she finally opened her dream spot by the beach in La  Jolla California. Below is an excerpt from our conversation.

What are your earliest memories of food?

Well I didn’t come from a family who cooked as a passion. But my earliest memory of trying to cook was at a young age I was obsessed with meringue’s. Like at 8-9 years old I remember seeing pictures of them. We always had eggs and sugar around and so I tried like 100 times to make meringues. So that’s one of the reasons now that they are on my menu. Definitely a fond memory.”

How did you end up in the culinary industry?

“Honestly I don’t really know. But I was always interested in cakes, cookies and pastries when I was young. When we moved to Napa when I was 11 my parents tell me I was more specific about what I wanted to do. I would tell people I wanted to own a bakery by the beach. Dead serious! It was something I stuck with the whole time. And as I got older it was exciting to find that this idea I had as a kid was compelling and I continued to pursue.

My very first job was at a local bakery working the front counter. I then worked at the campus bakery when I went to Cal Poly. I got a good lesson in massive amounts of baking. I graduated from Cal Poly with a business degree and then went to the CIA at Greystone in Napa. I then worked in various bakeries and helped open PROOF in LA with my friend from culinary school. After that I decided I really wanted to learn bread and in my mind there was only one spot. So I moved to SF and pestered Chad until he finally gave me a shot. And I stayed at Tartine for 5 years.”

Who is someone you admire?

“It would have to be Chad Robertson, no question. He has had the biggest influence on me. Obviously learning baking from him but also the way he treats his employees, the environment and company culture he created. It’s the first place I’ve worked at that I felt like this could be the new frontier of how working in a kitchen could be. There’s no screaming or yelling. You get paid the highest possible rate, full benefits. There is a lot of camaraderie. It really set the tone of how I wanted to do things here.”

What kind of advice would you give to an aspiring chef?

“I think setting realistic expectations is important. I think having a huge respect for the craft and having respect from the people you learn from is of the utmost importance.”

When you hear the term “female” chef, does that bother you?

“I haven’t thought about that a lot until recently. I think in the baking industry we get it a little easier since things are evenly weighted. There’s a lot of prominent female bakers. I have heard from other female cook/chefs that they feel like they didn’t get a fair chance. I mean there’s room for everyone in this industry. I think we need to approach everything w equality and having that as the standard.”

If you weren’t a baker or chef what would you be doing?

“I’d probably be a writer. I really like writing and I really like reading. I’m hoping at the end of being a baker I will have a lot to say and glide into some juicy memoirs.”

If you can have anything as your last meal, what’s it going to be?

“Bread and butter.”