Melissa Chou- Aziza Pastry Chef

March 30, 2011

Melissa Chou is the pastry chef at Aziza.  Born and raised in San Francisco, she studied Art History at Vassar and lived in St. Louis for a year before coming back to San Francisco and getting immersed in pastry. Melissa attended a part time pastry class at Tante Marie Cooking School on Francisco Street and learned some baking basics. Her first job was at Quince and she then moved on to Presidio Social Club where Phil Ogiela was the pastry chef. Phil’s desserts, which emphasize texture and lightness, influence her style. Melissa also finds inspiration from Michael Bras, the French chef and author of Notebooks of Michael Bras: Desserts. When creating desserts she often looks at savory Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes and dishes to get a feel for the palate.

We sat down at Waterbar yesterday and chatted about her pastry world.

EL: What dessert do you have on the menu now that you are really excited about?

MC: Green Strawberry Sorbet with Rhubarb Jam and White Chocolate Mousse. Green strawberries have good strawberry flavor but are more acidic than ripe ones.

What ingredients do you like to work with the most?

 Yogurt, lemon, rhubarb, and green strawberries. I like the acidity in them.

What flavors do you like the least?

Coconut. I am trying to work with it more.

What comes to mind when I mention the following ingredients?

Rhubarb-green strawberries

Coffee- rich creamy desserts like pudding

Berries- lemon and French tarts with fruit on top

Almonds- meringue. I use nuts for more flavor in many of my meringues.

What’s your least favorite pastry trend?

When pastry chefs get swayed by trends and start using ingredients or doing things just because they are a trend. Also there’s a time and place for savory elements in a dessert but pastry chefs have to be careful not to go overboard.

What ingredients would you like to see used more in the pastry kitchen and appreciated by diners?
White Chocolate. It’s a foil to strong acid flavors. I add it to my lemon curd instead of butter.

What dessert has someone else created that you loved?

Carlos Salgado’s Melon Soup with Chamomile Snow at Commis in Oakland.

What kitchen tool would you be lost without?

A radio. I work by myself and it gets pretty quiet. Also my mini off set spatula.

Where do you like to eat out in the city?

Cotogna is really good.  I like to eat at home- my partner is a great cook.

What was the last thing you made outside of work?
A chocolate cake

What did you have for breakfast?
A bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

One comment

  1. another interesting interview! Keep them coming….

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