Cafe Society

Round two with Kris Padalino, pastry chef of Bittersweet

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What's your fantasy splurge? I'd love to go on a crazy-long vacation, but what I really want is an enormous kitchen with lots of toys. I spend most of my time in a kitchen whether I'm at the restaurant or at home with my family, and I grew up in kitchens -- it's where I most feel like myself. I'd love to have a huge Tuscan-style kitchen in my house with a copper range hood, farm-style sink, a granite island, plenty of natural light, stone mosaics, dark-wood beams, travertine floors and a professional-grade fridge with glass windows -- a place where friends and family wouldn't mind staying a while to eat great food and shoot the shit.

Biggest moment of euphoria in the kitchen: When I came to Bittersweet and created the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil dessert. I haven't been in this industry for long, and it was a huge accomplishment for me -- I haven't been so stoked to make a dessert in a long time, and to have guests personally want to talk to me about it is just an amazing feeling. There's nothing better than hearing someone tell you that you just made them the best dessert they've ever had, or "This is the most beautiful piece of art ever. I almost didn't eat it."

Craziest night in the kitchen: It was Mother's Day brunch at Campanile, in San Francisco, and we were short-staffed and short on patience. We did about 500 covers that day. I never worked another brunch again.

Greatest accomplishment as a pastry chef: Having guests personally come up to me and thank me for the dessert experience. I like that I'm making it into columns and my name is out there in the culinary world, but there's nothing like someone enjoying one of your creations and then wanting to come back for the same one...or waiting for the next big one.

What's one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? Even though I've only been in the industry for five years, I still consider myself green. I've just gotten lucky in that I've had the opportunity to work with some amazing chefs in California and Denver. People are also really thrown off when I tell them I have a seven-year-old kid.

What's the secret to baking bread? Patience and lots of practice. I love bread -- bring it on -- but I was never a bread maker. I dabbled here and there, but it wasn't until I came to Bittersweet that I wanted to take it on. My advice is to start with a basic bread recipe and tweak it to your liking, but remember that it's a living thing and needs love and time to grow. Don't rush when making it.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson