Susan VandenBerg is the new pastry chef at Gracie’s in Providence. I came across her husband Steve’s blog Eating Out in America, which chronicles their restaurant experiences and occasionally their lives (like in this great video of Susan’s New Year’s Eve preparations at the restaurant). I was curious about Susan and the magic she works in Gracie’s kitchen so I decided to ask her a few questions.
Susan at Gracie’s, from a video on Eating Out in America
Is there a certain country or region whose pastries and desserts especially inspire you?
I have to say that France, and particularly Paris, are the areas that inspire me as far as desserts and pastries go. I love the various doughs i.e. croissant, puff pastry, brioche, and my favorite thing is the tart – so many variations and wonderful flavors! Of course I’m swayed by the fact that I went to school and did an internship in Paris. What can I say?
Where, besides Gracie’s or home, is your favorite place to eat dessert in Providence?
I have to admit that I haven’t been out and about much in Providence, since work takes up most of my time, but, so far, Pastiche has my vote for desserts. The place reminds me a lot of a European shop, and their product is delicious to boot.
What’s the most unusual ingredient you’ve ever used in one of your creations?
Unusual ingredient you ask – hmmmmmm, that’s a tough one. I think using various spices in chocolates would be the most unusual – paprika, five spice powder and pepper to name a few.
When did your interest in cooking start?
My interest in baking started many years ago, probably with the standard Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie. I’ve loved baking for a long time and find it very relaxing and comforting.
If you weren’t a pastry chef, what would you be doing?
I would be making handcrafted folk santas, teddy bears, Nantucket baskets and anything else I can do with my hands.
Thanks to Susan for answering my questions and being the first interviewee on this blog. I haven’t been to Gracie’s in a couple of months and definitely have to return to try her desserts!