Deanne Steffen Chinn

Deanne Steffen Chinn

Corporate Pastry Chef of Big Heart Hospitality

The basic pastry skills are the most important to do this job. You need to nail down the basic skills before you can do the cool stuff. If you start with a bad foundation, your results will never be 100%. I am also big on organization, eye for detail, multi-tasking and creativity.

My first job and my current job have had the most significant impact on my career. My first Chef, Kevin Kalpalka, is the one that pushed me to get out of my hometown and to go work in some great restaurants. He talked to me about going to work on Nantucket for a summer, and I was hesitant. He ended up calling his friend, who was an Executive Chef at Topper’s, and told him I was coming to interview and made it so I couldn’t say no. I still thank him for getting me out of my comfort zone and doing something I wouldn’t have done on my own. Not sure if my career would be the same if it weren’t for him seeing potential in me. My current job. Tiffani Faison came into my life at just the right moment. I had been working at Blue Ginger for 11 years, the restaurant was closing, and I had no idea what was next. Chef Tiffani started talking to me at an event, which turned into interviews and ended with her offering me a position as the Corporate Pastry Chef. She has pushed me the hardest in the best way possible. It has made me think in a whole different way. She also just 100% supports me. Tiffani shows me that I am just as important and that I do deserve all the things I want in my career. It’s a great relationship as my mentor, boss, and friend.
A healthy work/life balance is hard, and I’m not always the best with it. Sometimes your job requires more of you than usual and that’s ok. My husband and I have a rule - "don’t bring the stress of work into the house." So even now, as soon as the car is turned off, I let work stress go for the night. I also try to keep my body healthy. I try to give myself at least one day off a week. On my days off, I don't just sleep the day away; it helps me feel like I have a life outside of work. I give myself a bedtime schedule, see my chiropractor when I know my body is off, and try to get a massage once a month. I also try to eat healthy since I eat a lot of sugar in a day.
When hiring, I look for a hardworking individual who has a willingness to learn, is driven, excited about pastry and what we are doing in our department.
I find inspiration all over. I can get it from just going out to eat and loving a dish, whether it be from an ingredient, flavor profile, or plating, which then gets me excited to get in the kitchen and come up with my dessert. Also, from Instagram. It's amazing to see what other pastry and savory chefs near and far are doing.
I knew this profession was right for me during an internship. My friends were all still in college and enjoying the summer, and I was working. I gave up going out and hanging with them all summer to work and take in my internship. I didn’t mind it either. I laugh because Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" had just come out; I feel like reading that book at that moment made me realize what you need to do to be great in a kitchen. It is going to take hard work and sacrifice. I also have just loved going to work every day since I started in this profession.
I keep my team engaged by involving them in every aspect of the process; I don’t get to do what I do or be where I am without their work and support. When introducing a new item, I open the conversation up to the whole team about flavors, ingredients, techniques, and plating. When the final product comes, they are just as proud of it as I am. Keeping them in the whole process lets them learn new techniques about new ingredients and the origin of a dessert. I also give them credit in everything I do, we do. It is sometimes as simple as tagging them on an Instagram post.
I educate myself by researching things I see either on TV, Pinterest, Instagram, websites, in books, in person, etc. I do wish I was better at taking classes. There are some great online classes like Chocolate Academy Online and Savour School. Have always wanted to take a class at L’Ecole Valrhona in Brooklyn.
Organization is one thing I couldn't live without, it's how I stay ahead. A lot goes on in the pastry department. If an order isn't posted, prep list isn't filled out correctly, inventory is incorrect, or if everything is just thrown around and not put away correctly, we as a department will be scrambling. Organization allows you to see a clear path to everything going on and maintain a sense of calm when things get chaotic.

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