A Chef Interview: Lynette Pflueger
Lynette Pflueger's second home lies in a small corner hidden inside the kitchen at 404 W Main Ave in Spokane, Washington, home of Santé Restaurant & Charcuterie. Here, the 31yr old Spokane native and 2013 Food & Wine magazine People's Choice Best New Pastry Chef nominee creates the kind of dishes people salivate over. As soon as I walk into the kitchen, I hear the all too familiar sounds of a Cuisinart ice cream maker, not an industrial or commercial one, but the same exact one you or I may have on our counters at home. “I’m making ice cream.” She says (she LOVES ice cream), as we pause and listen to the machine spin like children waiting for the end result.
She starts off by putting together the components of her chocolate-pumpkin dessert, which consists of a flourless chocolate cake, white chocolate pumpkin creméux, tarragon ganache, chocolate sand, & chocolate sorbet; her hands meticulously slicing and forming every element like a surgeon in the kitchen. Chef Lynette confesses that she’s half creative & artsy and half science when it comes to pastry, and it shows in her components and plating. Each individual element maintaining its own artistic symmetry and flavor, and put together to form a dish that not only rivals a piece of art, but also manages to bring together multiple distinct components and flavors into one cohesive identity. I’d rather stop and stare than eat it, but for inquiring minds, it’s as equally delicious as it is beautiful.
She loves to do “big things on a small budget”, something she learned from a mentor while working as a Pastry Chef at Club Med in Florida. A graduate of the Art Institute in LA, Chef Lynette recently returned to Santé as their Pastry Chef, and to also help with duties at Common Crumb, the bakery offshoot of Santé that will serve tarts & croissants, among other pastries that the city will surely flock to once it opens this December.
What intrigues me about Chef Lynette in particular is her overwhelming sense of family. She can easily hone in on memories of her dad’s fudge and her mom’s Christmas candy as major influences on the beginning of her culinary journey. With that, there’s no doubt that one of the main reasons why she chose to move back to Spokane after leaving Santé in early 2011 was to be closer to the ones she loves. Leaving however, allowed her to broaden her culinary repertoire which eventually led her to helm pastry at Chef Mavro, a prominent award winning local restaurant in my hometown of Honolulu, Hawai'i. There, under the guidance of Chef George Mavrothalassitis, she ascended to be nominated as one of the People's Choice Best New Pastry Chefs in America by Food & Wine magazine, along with other prestigious pastry chefs from such restaurants as Incanto, Canlis, & Joule.
“He opened my eyes technically & creatively.”, she says of Mavro, who had so much faith in her talent that he let her redo his famous malasada dish.
Throughout all her success in Hawaii and around the country, Chef Lynette has always maintained strong ties to her Spokane home and especially to her local roots at Santé, aiding Chef/Owner Jeremy Hansen & team when they were invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in 2013, and now with returning to her Pastry Chef duties at the restaurant, to which she indulges: Chef Hansen shows a lot of trust in her and gives her creative freedom with the dessert menu, which includes the above mentioned chocolate cake, along with a Citrus Déclinasion, a bread pudding, and house made ice cream.
There’s no denying her brazen dessert imagination coupled with familiar ingredients and Alinea-esque creativity of her plates will be intriguing for the city, but Santé has always been a tour de force of combining love of community with avant-garde cuisine. As for what’s next, she hopes to return to the James Beard House with Chef Hansen & company in 2015, but with a palate and passion like hers, there’s no telling where she’ll go from here. For now, there’s no place like home.
Happy Holidays & see you all at Santé & Common Crumb.