Five Questions for Joanne Chang

Pastry chef Joanne Chang’s energy and dedication to attractive, delicious cuisine is more than inspiring. Ms. Chang’s desire to create exceptionally good food prompted her to leave a successful corporate career, in order to pursue success in the culinary arts. Having gained significant experience working at Biba in Boston, Bentonwood Bakery in Newton, and Rialto in Cambridge, she went to work in 1997 at New York’s prestigious Payard Patisserie and Bistro. A year later, she returned to Boston to work at Mistral until 2000, when she left to open her own Flour Bakery and Cafe in Boston’s South End. Flour has received much critical acclaim and has proven enormously successful. It is so successful that a sister location is opening later this year, in the Fort Point Channel area of South Boston.

Ms. Chang’s passion for sharing her love of baking and cooking is strongly evidenced in her extensive work outside of Flour. She is a contributing writer for Fine Cooking, teaches at culinary schools in the Boston area, and has appeared on various television shows, including Ming Tsai’s Simply Ming. Ms. Chang is currently in the process of writing a cookbook that will feature recipes from her menu at Flour, and in addition to so much productivity and accomplishment, she has still found the time to compete in the Boston Marathon every year, since 1991.

Despite such a very busy schedule, Ms. Chang recently answered five questions for Paper Palate:

1. What most influenced your decision to exchange a corporate career for one in the culinary arts?

While I liked my job as a consultant, I definitely didn’t LOVE it and while I really liked my supervisors and managers, I definitely didn’t see myself wanting to be like them professionally. I was really young (24) and had no obligations (husband, kids, debt), so I thought I would try cooking for a year and see what it was like. It wasn’t such a huge decision at first because I always felt I had an easy “out” – I could just go back to consulting if my “experiment” didn’t work out.

2. What’s new at Flour?

Flour2! We’re opening a second location, also called Flour, in the Fort Point Channel area in South Boston, hopefully by late Fall. We are really excited about going into a new neighborhood and spreading Flour love and treats!

3. What is the most complex/difficult dessert you’ve created, so far?

To be honest, the most challenging item for us so far has been creating the perfect croissant. We started out by using a recipe from Payard Patisserie which I’d picked up while working there. But then subsequent trips to Paris made me realize that our croissant could be so much better. So we tweak and tweak and tweak, but I am still not thrilled with it.

No dessert is super complex or challenging – the big challenge is making a dessert the same quality every single time. THAT’S difficult!

4. Do you have a personal favorite dessert?

ICE CREAM!!!! All the time, any time. Coffee Haagen Dazs please!

5. Any one-word advice or suggestion for aspiring chefs?

Persistence. Time and time again what I see is that the chefs who make it and move up the ladder are the ones who simply do not give up. They understand that mistakes are meant to be learned from and they push themselves to grow and they just don’t see quitting as an option.

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