Chef Instructor Spotlight: Chef Anne Lanute
It takes a lot to run a school like Escoffier Online but one of the most important roles-if not the most important- is that of our esteemed instructors. We trust them to take care of, teach and mentor our students through the program so they can leave it feeling confident and ready for whatever may lay ahead. That’s why we bring in the best, like our newest pastry chef, Anne Lanute. She has worked all around the country at some of the U.S.’s finest pastry shops and chocolatiers. Her extensive knowledge and decorative cake expertise makes us very lucky to have her as one of our own.
Chef Anne took a moment away from the students to talk to us about her past work experience, why she went into the pastry arts and her top 3 favorite ingredients to work with right now.
Escoffier Online: What is your background in the culinary/pastry arts?
Anne Lanute: I cut my teeth at Rathbun’s Restaurant in the Inman Park area of Atlanta under the direction of Kevin Rathbun and Pastry Chef Kirk Parks. It was there that I learned a lot of troubleshooting and a deeper knowledge of ingredient function that I did not learn in pastry school. From there, I went to Virginia, where I worked as an assistant chocolatier at Gearharts Fine Chocolates and as a pastry chef for the From Scratch Baking Company, where I began to get significant experience designing and making specialty and wedding cakes. After I moved back to Illinois, I owned my own cake decorating business, Snarky Cakes, for a few years. I went on to Bistro One West as the Pastry Chef when we were recognized by Chicago Magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2011. I have consulted on menu and bakery design for Chicago-area operations before coming to Escoffier.
EO: What has been your favorite job so far?
AL: Gearharts Fine Chocolates in Charlottesville, VA. I loved working as a chocolatier. Chocolate is so fickle and temperamental, and it was a challenge that I embraced. I enjoyed the precision in hand-tempering and hand-cutting chocolates.
EO: Why did you want to get into the culinary or pastry field?
AL: I have always liked working with my hands. From assembling U-joints to operating CNC machines at my father’s shop throughout high school and college, I always liked working with my hands. I liked being able to see that I did something tangible at the end of the day. So, when I picked up baking as a hobby, it clicked in me pretty fast that this is what I should be doing as a career.
EO: What do you love most about being an educator with Escoffier Online?
AL: I really enjoy getting to see the students’ progress both in skill and style. We each have our own unique skills and artistic ideas, and to see those qualities emerge in pastry students is both exciting and inspiring.
EO: What is the one ingredient you always have to have in your kitchen?
AL: Vodka — it thins out gel food coloring, adheres fondant pieces together, and if a cake design is giving me a hard time, a martini takes the edge off!
EO: What do you think online culinary education can offer students around the world?
AL: It allows the student the flexibility to balance work and life in a way traditional brick-and-mortar schools do not.
EO: What was your biggest culinary/pastry dish triumph?
AL: I love taking classic desserts from my childhood and reinventing them. I make mean adult s’mores from scratch and my oatmeal cream pie? I actually mutter to myself that I hate myself for it because I find it that delicious. Or maybe that’s my subcutaneous fat yelling at me… I also love making strudel. I like to think that if there was a US Olympic Strudel Team, I would be on it. I can get that dough paper-thin with no holes!
EO: What is your favorite restaurant in the world and why?
AL: Since I’m in pastry, I’ll list my favorite dessert place! Kimmer’s Ice Cream in Saint Charles, IL. Everything is made in small batches and with ingredients sourced from local farms. Flavors that I hunt down there: Aztec Hot Chocolate, Goat Cheese & Cherry, Balsamic Fig, Sunday Morning Breakfast (french toast pieces in maple ice cream).
EO: What are your top 3 favorite ingredients to cook with right now?
AL: Mexican chocolate, avocado, and bourbon.
EO: We usually all have one! Is there a food you hate?
AL: Seafood. All of it. Especially sushi. Don’t even try to tell me it doesn’t taste fishy. To me, it does.
EO: Any words of advice for people thinking about getting into the culinary/pastry arts?
AL: Read up on trends and pastry chefs! Gather ideas! Find someone who inspires you to emulate! Just by paying close attention to a skilled chef you admire will really help you define your own style and develop your own creative ideas.